“Well, I don’t know, Sam,” Dean said, not patiently at all. “All I know is that we have to get there.” He laid his hand on the briefcase, which rarely left his side now. “We’ll figure it out. Worst case scenario, we’ll improvise.”
“Right. Improvise.” Sam lay there for a few minutes, and Dean stroked the briefcase. “Dean?” Sam said softly. “Do you ever wonder how all this is going to end?”
“Yeah,” Dean said. “We’ll find the final Grail castle and give it to someone else, I hope.”
“And if Lilith can’t break the last seal,” Sam said, “then the Apocalypse won’t come. It’s not much of a plan.”
“I know the angels don’t know exactly what’s going to happen either,” Dean said. “We’re all in the dark.”
“Yeah.” Sam was quiet again.
Dean turned onto his side and stretched out his leg, wincing as his wound ached. He put his hand back on the briefcase, but instead of the usual comforting warmth, he was filled with melancholy and longing, like the worst homesickness he’d ever had. He inhaled sharply and turned his face into the pillow, telling himself he was not going to cry like a little girl just because he was confused and worried.
“Dean,” Sam said again, soft, “you miss him.”
“What?” Dean muttered.
“Castiel. You miss him.”
“Shut up,” Dean said and reached over to turn off the lamp between their beds. “Go to sleep.”
“I’m okay with it, you know,” Sam said as if he hadn’t spoken. “You being bi. I’m okay.”
Dean said quietly, “Castiel will go back to heaven when all this is over, if we succeed. If we don’t, it won’t matter anyway.”
“Wow. Talk about hopeless. Maya was right.”
“Of course she was, Sam,” Dean said wearily. “I don’t even know if I’m going to survive this. I think . . .” He inhaled. “I think sometimes that’s why nobody will tell me any details. They think I won’t do it if I know I’m going to die.”
“You’re not going to die, Dean.”
“One of us is, Sam, and it’s not going to be you. I won’t let them kill you.”
Sam looked over at him with a slight smile. “Do you ever think, Dean, that the reason I’ve got this strength, these powers, is to protect you?”
Dean looked right back at him, not smiling at all. “No, I think you’ve got those powers because Azazel chose you. And you were supposed to stop using them, Sam.”
“Well, I haven’t, Dean. And you’re going to need me that strong and that powerful when we get to the end of this. The angels, they don’t know everything, and they don’t know what Azazel’s plan was — maybe it was this, to keep Lucifer from rising.”
Dean stared at him. “Azazel wanted you to rule hell, Sam.”
“Right! That’s exactly it. Me instead of Lucifer. Maybe he thought if someone who was human ruled Hell some mercy would come into it, you know? Not just all the torture and awfulness.”
“Are you fucking serious?” Dean said. “You’re giving Azazel — the demon who killed our mother and your fiancée and our father — good intentions?”
Sam shook his head. “Maybe he was trying to make a better world. He just did it the way he knew how.”
“You’re insane,” Dean said flatly and lay down on his back.
“I’m not!” Sam exhaled. “I’m just trying to make sense of it all.”
“You’re not making sense! You’re scaring me. Look, no matter what you want to believe, the forces of Hell do not want good things for you. Stop talking like you think they’re just misunderstood.”
Sam looked at him, frowning, and then rolled onto his side, his back to Dean. “Long drive tomorrow. Lots of switchbacks. Maybe we should get a Jeep.”
“Yeah,” Dean muttered. “Maybe.” He rubbed his forehead, looking at Sam, and then got up to close the curtains. He looked out at the parking lot, expecting to see a dark horned shape, but there was only softly falling snow.
“Get a Jeep,” of course, was Winchester-speak for going to the local forestry service headquarters before sunrise and hotwiring a Jeep from their vehicle fleet. Sam had maps he’d downloaded from websites about the medicine wheel, and they set out on Highway 14.
It was a tricky drive, and Dean suspected it would be the same even without the snow dusting the asphalt. He put the Jeep into a low gear and took the steep inclines slowly, his foot hovering over the brake pedal in case they started sliding.
Sam said little, though he kept a hand on the briefcase to keep it from sliding, too. “Feeling better about the cup?” Dean asked him finally.
“No,” Sam said. “Still gives me bad dreams. But you’re right, it’s something sacred, so that must mean something.”
“Maybe it’s a warning,” Dean said and slowed the Jeep as the road dipped.