Driving back home wasn't too much of a trip; it was peaceful, like looking out the window at a ruined world. Jet and Meg sat in the backseat of the truck Dean borrowed from John; it had 4-wheel drive and would be a better get-away vehicle should they need it. There was a CD in the player and blasted an old mix that Sam used to have when he was twelve. No one really said anything about it, it was fairly upbeat and brought back memories of times before Hell broke loose.
Dean pulled up outside their settlement, the walls and gates closed to outsiders and demons alike. Dean wasn't sure he liked that aspect of it; he thought that they should be open to everyone but apparently he was naïve. Not everyone in the world was stable or level-headed, and some were just out to get others. It was stupid and made him angry, but he couldn't protest much after a group of strangers climbed their walls one night.
He was 18 and up late, sitting on the rooftop of his place with Jet and Sam when Jet spotted the dark figures. Those strangers stole their food and killed several of their people before a squad hunted them and shot them down. That night had been a nightmare, Dean's hands had been shaking as he held tightly to the gun he'd been issued. He remembered the sick feeling in his stomach, remembering Captain Uziki and Cal as he aimed at more humans. These ones weren't possessed; they were just people attacking other people. Apparently giving humanity a bigger enemy to fight than one another didn't stop some of them.
He had wished for Cas to come home so many times. Dean still prayed at night for him, every night since he'd left.
The gates were still closed and Dean started to drum his fingers on the steering wheel, waiting. The truck was quiet for about ten seconds before Sam exhaled audibly, "I bet they're slacking off again," he groaned and leaned back, dropping his seat and hitting Jet behind him.
"Hey!" Jet blurted out sleepily, a smile on his face as he leaned over Sam's, "You're a brat, you know that?"
Sam didn't reply, he just smiled back and leaned up for a kiss. Jet obliged of course, and to Dean it was adorable. Sam had the worst crush on Jet for so long and seeing the two together after that time was more than Dean's little heart could bear. It reminded him of Cas sometimes, but only a little.
"Oh my god," Meg leaned around past Dean and hit the horn a few times, evidently out of patience. "This is ridiculous."
Dean smirked and shuffled out of her way, if she hadn't done it he was pretty sure he'd have gotten there.
The doors swung open a moment later, guards hustled to let them in quickly and Dean could see a crowd of people waiting. Many of them looked ready to run home and pack their bags; he looked forward to giving them the good news.
As they drove inside and the gates closed behind them again Dean pulled to a stop next to John and Mary. "Hey," he grinned as he hopped out, arms open wide. He didn't expect much contact since he was covered in slime and unspeakable gore, but his mom embraced him right away. John went around to the other side to catch Sam in the same bone crushing hug.
"I'm so glad you're safe," Mary kissed his cheek and squeezed him tighter.
"How did it go?" Nikki asked as she rushed up to Jet, silently thankful that he wasn't covered in blood. "Did you do it?"
"Yeah," Jet hugged her and rested his head against the top of hers, much taller than she was now. "It got a bit hairy but we did it."
"Why're you the only clean one?" John scoffed lightheartedly at him, letting Sam go once he ruffled the teen's hair.
"Because I earned it."
"So he says," Sam rolled his eyes.
"Hey," Dean punched Sam's shoulder, nearly knocking him over, "Give your boyfriend a break; he nearly got fried by lava today."
"And crushed," Jet pointed out quickly and earned himself an angry look from Nikki.
"You know I don't want to hear about the near death experiences, you little punk."
He shrugged sheepishly, "Sorry mom, kind of hard to avoid these days." He offered her a similarly sheepish smile until she let it go.
"So you did it?" One of the fellow defenders caught Dean by the shoulders; it was Gordon and his eyes wide and hopeful. Having to find a new place to live those days was like a death sentence for more than half the group of people moving.
"Yeah," Dean clapped him on the shoulder proudly, "We did, it's gutted and in the middle of the street up on Fifth."
For a second he figured the relief in his people was overwhelming them, a silent sigh to release their tension. Except it only took a moment for the cheers to erupt and before he knew it he was hoisted up. "Whoa!" He laughed and hoped they wouldn't drop him, it was just a wall of sound coming from the crowd but he could tell it was excitement and joy that they were feeling. 'Can you see me, Cas? We're doing okay, I'm protecting them.'
They were carried off via crowd surfing; Dean looked over to see Sam, Jet, and even Meg riding the same wave as him. The cheers and shouting that echoed from their return lifted his spirits more than he ever thought they could. He did it. He did something worthwhile to their settlement and he could be proud of himself. They'd proven themselves to themselves and everyone around them, they were more than just dreamers; they were fighters.
Celebrations started fast and went all night. Dean cleaned up and went to check out the parties that had basically come out of almost nowhere. People were all over the place, patting them on the back and giving them hugs. Sam was a little more humble with it than Dean or Jet; he smiled and said it was no big deal. Dean cheered with them and even did a chest bump or two.
"Should we really be celebrating?" Sam asked as the light disappeared over the horizon, "More demons could be on their way, especially if they see the corpse we left."
"Cheer up, Sammy." Dean put a drink in his hand and forced him to keep it. "By now most demons know where we're all at. If they want to come out and start some shit then let 'em, we'll take them out like we always do."
Sam looked him over with a half smirk, not quite buying into the bravado Dean liked to uphold. "That's a bit presumptuous."
"And what're you gonna do?" Jet dropped down next to Sam, "Worry until it all goes away? Relax a little, we deserve it."
"But can we afford it?" Sam argued bitterly, "Cas has been gone for six years and I haven't seen any other goddamn angels. I think… I think we need to face facts here."
"Don't," Dean warned almost viciously, his eyes dark as he finished off his glass of whiskey.
Sam bit his lip but didn't say it. Cas might have failed. Cas might be dead and we're all going down with him. Dean didn't want to hear it.
Jet rubbed Sam's leg silently, a simple apologetic look enough to help both Winchesters calm down. "We'll hold out as long as we can, we don't know what kind of shape Heaven's in and maybe Cas had to do a little more clean up than we thought."
"Yeah," Sam looked away, like he might've been ashamed for doubting in the first place. "I'm sorry; I don't know what to do anymore."
"That's alright," Jet leaned over and kissed his cheek, "We're all just getting by these days, but that's why we should take advantage of something like tonight. All these people are celebrating us, they're cheering for our victory and why not? We've been fighting so hard for so long, I really do think we deserve to let loose a little."
"You'd let loose anyway," Dean joked and fidgeted with the glass in his hand. He really wanted to go with Jet's optimism, Cas was just stuck up there for a little while, that's all it was.
"Hey guys," Meg walked up to them and dropped down carelessly beside Dean, "Why're you all sitting over here? Dancing and drinking are over there," she pointed toward the loudest areas.
"We know," Dean smiled at her as she reached over and poured what looked like whiskey into his cup to top it off, "Just needed some quiet time."
She nodded and looked over at Jet, "What, you not gonna drink anything?"
"Nah," he smirked and leaned back casually, leaving it at that but Sam wasn't about to let it go unsaid.
"Jet can't hold his alcohol, he's a lightweight."
Meg snorted out a laugh and nodded faster, "Got it, no drinks for him then."
Dean watched the others and his thoughts wandered. He wanted to know about Heaven, he wanted to know how many people were left in the world, how many demons, and if the angels would ever come back. Would Cas? He nudged Meg after his thoughts carried him away for too long, "Hey, can you sense Heaven?" He asked without thinking it over very much.
She sobered up pretty quick; maybe alcohol didn't affect her at all and she was just pretending. "Honestly I'm not sure," She placed her glass down and looked up, "Sometimes I think I can but… I don't know, it's a little odd. Heaven feels weird; it has ever since Cas left. I think it's fixed but then I wonder why the angels aren't here yet." Meg looked down again and shifted her feet uncomfortably, "I haven't been able to sense Cas for six years… it's been harder to deal with than I thought it would be."
"I feel you," Dean nodded and turned his gaze to the sky, "Being without him only gets worse as time goes by. I wonder about him all the time, if he's still alive, if he managed to do what he needed to or if Heaven's been annihilated. I think sometimes that maybe he failed and that's why he hasn't come home, but then I'm sure that something like Lucifer would have arrived by now so… Cas must have succeeded, right?" His musings trailed on in his head but he cut off the audible ramblings there, no need to talk about it for that long.
Jet and Sam exchanged a quick look, "Well," Jet followed the general gaze up at the stars, carefully chewing on the inside of his cheek as he looked for the right words. "If it's any consolation, I think he's fine. Cas said he'd do his best to come back to us and that's all we can ask of him. If he failed then the world's gonna be a miserable place for a very long time, or until it goes down in flames. But if he succeeded then we just need to wait and keep fighting. Either way it's the same for us. We just need to keep going, eventually something's going to change and when it does we'll just have adapt to it."
"Sometimes I forget how good you are at keeping your head up," Sam muttered as he ran his fingers through Jet's hair. He leaned against his boyfriend and exhaled softly, "How can you be so optimistic?"
"Not sure that it's optimism so much as it is a self-preservation thing." Jet rested his head against Sam's and smiled as he breathed in, "And that's something I've always been good at."
Dean hummed his agreement, liking how Jet explained it the more he tossed the thought around in his head. Whatever happened six years ago, whatever happened to Cas, Dean knew he'd have to find a way to deal with it. For the time being he'd wait, like had been doing, but now without questions. If it was faith that he needed then it was faith that he'd use. Castiel would come home to him soon. It might be longer than he originally expected, but he chose to believe Cas would be back. Until that time he'd live his life and fight for his Earth because it was his only home.
"You guys are incredible," Gordon walked up to them from the celebrations, a somewhat timid smile on his face. High school had been a long time in the past, it felt even further away than six years. Gordon had changed a lot, really came out of his shell. Dean remembered the fights, how they could seem so trivial after everything that had happened. Yet he knew he'd do it again, anyone that disrespected Castiel would face the consequences.
"Thanks man," Jet grinned at him and caught his hand for a quick squeeze and let go, the two of them had been getting along. Dean had heard from Jet about the scenario in the cafeteria, how Jet gave Gordon orders to get everyone the hell out of there; it had saved nearly every life in the room, minutes later a massive demon crushed the building. "How's the party?"
"Wondering where its heroes are at." Gordon sat down and took a swig of his beer, "Thanks to you four we can stay here, wish I'd gone with."
"You could've," Dean pointed out harshly and made the other man cringe, "But it's alright, you're not the only one that isn't crazy."
"Don't feel bad," Sam reiterated for him, "What we did was a long shot and if too many people went with they could've been hurt. What matters is that it was done, not who did it."
"So you say," Gordon tipped his head toward Sam, "But we all know you four have always been more than just anybody. Hell, some people have guardian angels and some people don't, that's just how it is."
"Damn right," Jet grinned and lifted his bottle of water, "Here's to the survivors,"
"To us," the others cheered and raised their glasses.
They did a small toast to their success and turned back their drinks, eyes toward the sky just in time to see something entirely out of place. Dean furrowed his brow as he watched the sky light up like he'd never seen.
Meg stood up and dropped her glass, "Angels," she barely managed to whisper, "they're here."
Dean stood too, eyes wide as he watched shooting stars with wings sail down to the planet. He could feel something different, like the world was changing as the seconds passed. "Is Cas there?"
"I can't sense him," she was a mixture of excitement and terror, Dean could relate.
Shouts of humanity echoed that night; some knew what was coming while others thought it might be a new threat. But whatever it was Dean knew they'd do everything they could to survive.