Disclaimer/Spoilers: See Chapter 1
A/N: Author notes at the end because I can do that.
What I've Done
In this farewell
There's no blood, there's no alibi
'Cause I've drawn regret
From the truth of a thousand lies
So let mercy come and wash away
What I've done
Sam paused on the threshold of Bobby's front door, taking a moment to study the man sitting just a few feet away on the rickety steps of the porch. He was leaning heavily against a support beam, dressed in layers: undershirt, a thick Henley, Sam's gray hoodie. Even so, Sam could tell his big brother was feeling chilled and was still reeling from the abrupt physical changes of the spell. He didn't know for sure what all had been altered within his brother, only that Dean was no longer radiating impossible, terrifying levels of heat, and while his chest still ached it didn't appear to be as excruciating a pain as it had been just the day prior.
Sam dropped his eyes and adjusted the items in his hands. Less than twelve hours ago, his brother had technically been dead. Even though it had only been for a few minutes, those had been some of the longest minutes in Sam's life. He was having a hard time wrapping his head around the whole thing and was mostly just happy to have his brother alive, sitting in front of him in mostly okay shape.
"If you're working up the courage to ask me out," Dean drawled, throwing a lazy glance over his shoulder, "you're still not my type."
Sam rolled his eyes and stepped out onto the porch. He dropped a worn wool blanket over Dean's shoulders, then quickly covered up the comforting chick-flicky move by offering his brother one of the two beers he'd carried out.
Dean made no comment as he pulled the blanket tighter around his shoulders as subtly as he could, like he was pretending through such a small motion that he wasn't actually cold, that he didn't actually need it.
Sam resisted the urge to roll his eyes a second time, thinking with some degree of amusement how this very different version of Dean was still, at his core, very much the same brother he'd always known. He settled onto the steps next to his brother as Dean wrapped a hand around the neck of the offered beer and took a long drink. They sat in companionable silence, watching the sun dip low, its fading rays casting a reddish-purple tint across the cloud-scattered horizon.
"So," Sam started, keeping his tone casual. "What now?"
"Hmm?" Dean slid his eyes over to his brother, the corner of his mouth lifting upward. "Head to the nearest bar? Drink our weight in booze and find some fiery redhead with loose morals and a tight—"
"I meant . . ." Sam quickly interrupted, before his brother's words reached the brain breach point.
Dean grinned, the expression somehow equal parts cocky and innocent, and took a slow drink from his beer.
Sam swallowed the deep sigh—and deeper grin—that threatened to spill over. "I meant, now that we've fixed your . . . soul problem, and you're no longer at risk of blowing a hole through the planet, what do we do now? The future that you . . . how do we make sure it doesn't happen?"
Dean dropped his eyes, his thumbnail idly digging beneath the label of his beer bottle, and muttered a soft response.
Sam was sure there was no way he heard his brother correctly. Especially not after everything that had happened over the past few weeks—hell, over the past day. He turned toward his older brother, fixed him with a hard stare. "What?"
Dean drew in a slow breath and squared his shoulders. He didn't look at Sam, gaze fixed on the horizon. "Don't save me."
"What?" Sam gaped incredulously and dipped his head, searching Dean's averted face.
Dean finally turned toward his brother, his expression one of steel-tipped determination. "I'm serious, Sam."
"Yeah, I got that." Sam dragged a hand through his hair. "I'm not sure I understand what you . . . we just got done saving you."
His brother shook his head. "No, that was . . . different. It wasn't just my life at risk." He stared unblinkingly. "Sam, if something happens, if I die or—"
"Dean." Sam tightened his grip around his beer, the moisture-loosened label slipping against the glass. "No. You can't ask that of me."
"Sam, man . . . if you want to stop the world from ending, this is the best way." Dean spread his arms out wide, the blanket slipping off his shoulders to land soundlessly against the splintered steps. "You've seen the kind of people the future produces, and to answer the question you won't ask—yes. In the future, you can be just as cold and just as rough-around-the-edges as me. The world that I've seen, that I've lived through . . . " He sucked in a harsh breath, face pinching like it hurt him. "That's what it does to people. To everyone."
Sam sat frozen in silence, listening.
Dean dropped his arms back to his lap; a faint shiver rocked his frame as a breeze blew past. "Sam, I'm not going to look for trouble." He pulled his eyes away from his brother, sliding them down to his hands. "But if something happens to me, if I die . . . you need to let me go. Salt and burn my body, and move on."
"Move on?" Sam finally spoke up, the thought so ludicrous he couldn't stay silent any longer. "Just like that?" He let out a humorless chuckle. "Sure, yeah, no problem. You make it sound so simple."
Dean rolled his lips against his teeth. "Sammy . . . " His voice was soft, its typical rough edges tinted with an air of understanding. "I know it wouldn't be easy, but . . . if something happens, if I tell you to let me go . . . Sammy, man, you have to let me go." He dragged his eyes up to his little brother's, and the desperation that filled them caused Sam's breath to stutter in his chest.
"Dean . . ."
"Salt and burn my body—a hunter's funeral—then stick close to Bobby, at least for a bit. He might not admit it, and if you ever tell him I said it I'll deny every word, but he's a softy deep down, and he can help you . . ." Dean rolled his hand, gesturing vaguely but clearly unable to find the exact words he was looking for. "Don't try to bring me back. Sammy, I've seen the result of those choices—the damage they do, the pain they cause. Please, Sammy, promise me that. When the time comes, you'll let me go."
Sam dragged a hand down his face, his mind tripping to keep up with the dramatic turns of a conversation he'd hoped would have been on the brighter side. What his brother was asking of him . . . it was too much. "Dean, I can't . . ."
A small smile pulled at Dean's lips, something sad but confident. Proud. "You can. I know you can. Sammy, please, promise me."
Since he was a child, Sam had always known, somewhere in the back of his mind, that no matter what it was he needed, Dean would do everything within his power to see that he got it, even if it meant giving his little brother the shirt off his own back. His big brother had always given everything and never asked for a damn thing in return. He wanted now to ask Dean—to beg him—to not demand this of him, to forget this conversation ever happened, to shut up and drink his beer. And because Dean always made sure Sam got what he wanted—what he needed—he knew that Dean would, eventually, even if only for his sake. But he couldn't see past the unstrained plea, the absolute desperation and aching regret that were bleeding out of his brother's eyes.
Sam knew this moment had nothing to do with what he wanted or needed, and he returned the favor he owed a hundred times over.
"I promise," he said softly. "If something happens . . ." He paused, nearly choking on the words, like they were fighting not to be spoken. "I'll let you go."
Dean help his gaze for a long moment, then nodded, resigned and satisfied. He turned back toward the darkening sky and took a long pull from his beer.
Sam narrowed his eyes at the skyline as an errant thought crossed his mind. "What about your friend?"
"Hmm?" Dean turned back to his brother.
"Your friend, the one that sent you back?"
"Yeah." Sam shifted his weight, draping his arms lazily over his knees. "I assume he's around in this time, right? Maybe he can help?"
Dean pressed his lips into a thin line, his eyes drifting heavenward. "That's my plan, but . . . it ain't gonna be easy."
Sam frowned. "Why not? I mean, he sent you back, right? From the future? He must be packing some serious mojo."
"Well, yeah, but . . ." Dean rubbed the back of his neck. "It's complicated."
"We just saved you from exploding due to excessive souls, Dean. What's more complicated than that?"
"Yeah, okay." Dean sighed. "Cas is an angel, and angels are all pretty much douches. He's a good guy . . . eventually, but right now he's sort of still buying into the company line."
Sam narrowed his eyes, certain that he'd misheard his brother. "Did you say . . . angel? Like angel angel?"
Dean nodded. "Yeah. You know, an Angel, with a capital 'A.' Wings, harp, the whole nine."
"Oh." Sam blinked owlishly, not sure how to even start processing that bit of news.
Dean gave him a sidelong look. "You know, I was serious about that fiery redhead. I bet she has a friend."
And just like that, Dean shattered the thick, suffocating tension that had been built up around them in the wake of all they'd faced and overcame, offering a comfortable, however temporary, exit from the heavy conversation, and Sam took it eagerly. "Dude, I don't need your help in getting some."
"Uh-huh. You know, Sammy, that lost puppy look will only take you so far with women." Dean grinned, his bottle hovering inches from his mouth. "Especially once you start losing all your hair."
Put to rest what you thought of me
While I clean this slate
With the hands of uncertainty
So let mercy come and wash away
What I've done
A/N: So here we are, at the end of all things. I hope y'all enjoyed the ride, I know I did. I wanna give a special thanks to cfccfc, CornishGirl, and sunshine102897 who came into this story in the first chapter and have faithfully and patiently followed it for over two years, and a thank you to all those who have been patiently waiting on the finale chapter to begin reading it. A thank you to everyone else who has read this story and made it to this point. Y'all are the reason I wrote this story and why I continue to write.
Also a super special (That's like normal special but with a cape) thanks to BlueRiverSteel, and Chrissie0707 for their help with writing and editing parts of the story and to Pepper who taught me more about grammar in the past two years than twelve plus years of schooling and English classes could ever hope to. If only my fifth grade English teacher could see me now. Though I still don't know what an adverb is. Seriously.
So now to the part you really wanna know. I apologize to everyone about Cas not making an appearance. He was suppose to, it was in the outline, in the plan, but I think he might have got stuck in the checkout line of the grocery store. There is a sequel planned and then another story planned after that. In the sequel, Cas will be showing up in the first few chapters, that won't change, the story won't be able to move on without him. I can't say when I will start posting the next story, it's been kind of shelved for a bit in favor of an original story I'm writing with Chrissie0707, called "ShadowBorn" But keep an ear to the ground, one never knows what the muse may latch on to next. If y'all want/ask really nicely, I might post a preview/sneak peek of a scene I already wrote for one of the next stories.
Again, thank you to everyone who has come this far, wouldn't have made without y'all
Nova Shepard. 💕