Story Warnings: Solid T/PG-13 rating for quite a bit of Dean-esque swearing and verbal blasphemy that bleeds into the narrative whenever he's cranky. Mild gore (nothing more than the show has), overall dark themes (nothing more than the show has), absolute AU from the first chapter onward (but still with almost everything the show has). Welcome to the party!
SLASH Warning: Squint to see Destiel in the first half (subtext!) with just about the slowest burn towards relationship-status in the second. The romance in this story will attempt to stay true to all characters (no OOC here, I solemnly swear) and has some unique twists along the way. Romance is always a subplot for me; I'm an action/adventure gal first and foremost.
Chapter Warnings: Swearing, verbal blasphemy, character death, and the end of the world.
The Road So Far (This Time Around)
Yes, there are two paths you can go by.
But in the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on.
And it makes me wonder
- Led Zeppelin -
He hurt everywhere. It wasn't the physical wounds: the couple of cracked ribs, the cuts and bruises – that one pretty deep gash across his lower back bleeding all over the scratchy grass. Truth was he'd gotten off easy and he knew it. Because it was Amara, and she couldn't hurt him any more than he could hurt her. Not really.
No, those weren't the real aches. The true pain was deeper than torn skin or muscle or bone. It was in his soul, whatever was left of it after all the years. His very being hurt.
Sam was dead. He was sure of it. The kid hadn't moved in far too long, and the amount of blood gathering under him was damning. His back was to him, lying on his side with his head awkwardly angled to form a dam against the growing puddle of red. Maybe it was better that way. Dean didn't think he could survive seeing Sam's lifeless eyes one more time in his life.
Cas was as good as dead too, if he was even in there anymore. Dean had realized too late that they went into this suicide mission without any proof that their friend was alive. Just went on the word of the freaking devil and a God he expected less from than the King of Hell. He hadn't heard from Cas in….well, too long. Damn it, he should have at least made Lucifer let him surface before all of this went down. Let them say their goodbyes or whatever. Let him ask Cas why. Why had he said yes to the Devil.
Now the angel (angels, plural? God, he hoped plural) was writhing on his side, quaking in a pain Dean couldn't see. Shaking fingers were pressed against his shredded stomach in an attempt to staunch the tidal flow of blood and organs and light that was pure Grace. It was a losing battle and they both knew it.
Another tally on the scoreboard of friends and family dead and gone (at least they'd take the son of a bitch devil down with them this time).
Then there was Amara. She was losing too; he could feel it. And he goddamn hated himself for it, but it was part of the ache. She was going to die. God was going to kill her this time, because she would never let him seal her away again. The pain that thought caused was nothing physical.
Damn it, he had gone into this knowing she had to die. They'd gone to the cemetery (and why was it always a friggin' cemetery?) knowing full well they were gonna take her down or die trying. And here they were. And it hurt. It hurt in so many ways.
He blinked, dragging his eyes away from the Darkness. It was harder than he wanted to admit.
Cas was staring at him, all blue eyes, ashen skin, and dripping blood. Dean blinked again. He shifted, trying to move for the first time since he had hit the ground hard enough to crack those ribs. That was Cas staring at him. He couldn't say how he knew – didn't care anyway. That desperate, sad, guilty, longing gaze was his Cas. Not even Lucifer could fake those eyes.
The apology swimming in them fucking hurt. He wanted to tell him it was okay (it really wasn't), but he was so damn tired. Cloth shifted over grass as the angel dragged himself forward. He left behind blood and organs and grace. Dean wanted to tell him to stop.
What was the point?
The progress was painstaking. The angel inched towards him in a pathetic one-armed army crawl, his other hand holding his stomach together as he grabbed at soil and grass and pulled. Dean knew it had to be excruciating. His best friend was only killing himself faster. That should mean something: make him feel something. But everything was numb.
When Castiel got close enough, Dean reached out and closed his hand around the angel's wrist. Blue eyes locked onto his.
"Time," he rasped out, body shaking. "There's still t-time, Dean."
Dean didn't know what he meant. The words were gritted, heavy and laced with the end of the world. He was pretty sure Cas was wrong: they didn't have any time left. The angel sure didn't. Those eyes, which Dean once swore could look into his very soul (and, yeah, angel, so they probably could), were now losing the light that fed them. That glow was a weak, dribbled trail seeping into the earth. Shit, Dean didn't even know if it was Cas or Lucifer fertilizing the planet.
He should have cared more about that than he did. He should have felt….something.
Dean swallowed, even as he sensed Amara rallying her strength for one more – one last – strike. Part of him, even now, yearned to save her. Part of him was pissed. His brother was dead. His best friend was bleeding out in front of him. His soul was aching for a woman hell-bent on destroying the damn universe. The rest of him was just tired.
Cas was moving again, this time with purpose. He was leaving more of himself behind in his urgency. Dean wanted to tell him to stop or there'd be nothing left. The words stuck in his throat when he met the angel's gaze. It was still Cas in there (and he had not panicked at the sudden thought that it might not be). Those eyes were still laced with all the hurt and wrong that Cas had been for…well, years, now.
Except now there was something else. There was a determination – a fierceness – that Dean hadn't seen since the apocalypse. Through gritted teeth, Cas crawled on his torn belly. His grip inched up Dean's arm with every pained move until fingers finally, finally, drug into the edges of a scar that had never faded.
Something – and Dean didn't even know how to describe it other than bright – flared throughout his entire being and he seized with it. It flooded everything that he was to the brim and every inch of his body tensed at its suddenness. It didn't hurt, not really. It was just so much.
He felt more than heard the fighting pause. Amara's confusion and the silence of halted blades were distant things. Castiel's hand had found his mark and Dean's world narrowed to that hand on his arm, their profound bond, and those blue eyes.
It sounded like a prayer and a blasphemy. A whisper and a scream, breathless and sharp, all in one go. Had he even said it all, or was he just imagining it? Dean was just as empty, just as numb, as he had been a second ago, and yet now he was also fucking overflowing, too.
What was left of him, what hadn't disappeared in this blaring white supernova forming in his chest, was already backpedaling. No way was he spending his final moments having a goddamn mental chick-flick moment with an Angel of the Lord. A one-sided chick-flick, even. No friggin' way.
When the overwhelming warmth flared into a fire, Dean found he no longer cared if his manliness had gone full rainbow sparkles and glitter because what the hell, Cas!
The angel's eyes were lit by a determination only the Righteous Man had ever known, and it was the only thing he could see anymore. They glowed with the pale blue of Castiel's life force: all of it that he had left. His skin was lit by an undercurrent of white. Light spilled from around clenched teeth. There was a plan there; Dean could see it in those eyes before he lost them to the brightness.
A Hail Mary, the last act of a fucked up play, and Dean knew right then that he wasn't gonna like the ending.
"Good luck, Dean."
Fingers pressed to his forehead, smearing blood and gore and grace. They left a gaping torso unattended, open to spill liquid light onto the grave below. Dean wanted to cry out, to tell him to stop, to ask why, what he was thinking, what he was doing-
Someone – a woman – screamed. Heat flooded him and it was too much and then he was screaming too. The grip on his arm was fucking piercing and Jesus Christ, Cas must be trying to claw his way into his entire being through one god damn handprint. The world spun and warped, and his stomach was somewhere near his throat and possibly inside out and holy shit, he was going to die.
And then there was only darkness.