Chapter 10: Epilogue
The air outside is chilly, but the fires will keep him warm enough soon. Sam places the last of the logs on top of the pyre. Her body is wrapped in a thick cotton sheet, but Dean can still see the red tinge of blood seeping to the surface. He looks down at the ground, not being able to look at her anymore.
His heart burns. He wants to scream, to stab and punch and kick and cry out because he never wanted to lose her. She . . . she was so different. She was special . . . special to him.
When Dean met her, she was innocent. It was before she started hunting, and she was practically a baby to him. A little sister. She was fun and lively, smart as a whip, and had the potential of being one hell of a hunter in time. But she didn't get to have time to grow and be amazing . . . why? Because of Dean and his brother. She gave up herself to save him and he couldn't save her. He will never forgive himself for that.
Sam throws away the kerosene bottle, pulling his lighter out of a back pocket. Swiping his thumb against the wheel until he gets a light, he pauses, looking back at his brother. Dean nods, and then she is set aflame.
She was beautiful, even now engulfed in swaying hues of orange and red. Hours passed and her flames are dying away with her. Sam wipes at his face and steps away, placing a hand on Dean's shoulder before walking away. Dean stays.
When he is alone, behind him he hears the rustle of footsteps crunching grass. He doesn't come into view, but Dean knows who it was.
"You don't belong here," Dean says flatly. He's not sure he has the willpower to fight in front of her.
Crowley's voice is equally dead. "You weren't the only one who loved her."
He's right. Dean doesn't want him to be, but there is nothing to be done about it now. Now, even though he feels drained and empty without her, he has to remember why she isn't here. "This is your fault." Dean's hands clench at his sides, his nails biting into his palm.
"You're the reason she's . . ." He sighs, a lone tear spilling down his cheek. "None of this would have happened if she never met you."
Crowley is quiet for a moment. When he speaks, his voice is even and rough. "I am not to blame. We both are. We both loved her, and that was her undoing. She died because she loved us, and it wouldn't have mattered if she had chosen you and it wouldn't have mattered if she had chosen me. We would still be here." He pauses, breathing in deeply before letting it hiss out his nose as it leaves. "You know, I have to wonder why she had to love us. Had she not, maybe she would have lived a long and happy life."
Dean bit his cheek. He's right again. Names pop up in Dean's mind: Bobby, Ellen, Jo, Ash, Dad, Mom. All people loved by Dean and they are all gone. If he loved them, then they ended up dead. He'd thought of it before and hoped she would be the exception. He wanted her so badly to be real, to stay. He should have known better.
"I know you have it," Crowley says softly. Dean reaches into his pocket and pulls out the gold coin and black cord. There is a smudge of her blood on the face of the coin. Dean folds his hand around it securely, almost as if he can hold her closer. The thought did cross his mind to hold on to one piece of her in the hopes her ghost would be attached to it. It's why he didn't tell Sam; he felt horrible, trying to keep her soul tethered to him when she didn't want to stay with him while she was alive. But Dean isn't ready to let go. He never got to say goodbye, or to tell her that he loved her too, long ago. She deserved to know.
Crowley sighs. "Please don't let her stay too long. I couldn't bear the thought of her becoming . . ." The words freeze in his throat.
". . . vengeful . . . "
A hand comes up to rest on Dean's shoulder. His first instinct should be to pull it free from Crowley's grasp, but for some reason, Dean can appreciate the gesture. "Don't be selfish, Dean. Let her go when it's time."
Crowley disappears then, leaving Dean with the dying embers of one of his greatest regrets. He clutches the coin hard and brings it up to his lips. It isn't fair. Not to him and not to her. And not to Crowley, though he doesn't give a fuck what that rat wants.
But she did, and for that, he can pacify himself just this once. Dean approaches the pyre, its flames still licking at the base of the alter just barely kissing her, wishing he could do the same, just one more time. He kisses the coin, whispering her name before tossing it into the base of the pyre.
He watches it burn, his eyes stinging from smoke and tears.
Then, Dean feels a sigh of wind across his face. He wants to believe it's her, caressing him one last time before his mind can tell him otherwise. He sighs with the wind and opens his eyes. He imagines he sees her in the lining of the trees, their branches swaying like her waving goodbye.