Title: Darkness Shall Follow

Rating: PG-13 for creepiness and violence, gen

Characters: John, Dean, Sam

A/N: Okay. So this is it. The last chapter. I hope this ties up the loose ends in a way that makes people feel satisfied. There's nothing worse than a fic that doesn't end right. Thanks again to Brenna and sendintheclowns, and especially to Gem, who makes all things better merely by her presence.

Summary: It doesn't matter who it is. It just matters that it's not both of them. That he's going to save one and probably condemn the other. This destroys him either way.


Epilogue

-o-

It's a year after Sam leaves when John picks up a trail of disappearances in a cemetery. Jackets and shoes found in a cemetery crypt in central Oregon. And he knows the date, he knows the date too well, and three people have disappeared there and the fourth will be gone soon if someone doesn't stop it.

This time, John knows. He knows it isn't a spirit. He knows exactly what to expect.

He's more careful than usual and his stealth is animalistic. He waits and plans and comes to the graveyard when all is dark and the houses are sleeping. He carries his pistol and his knife and nothing else.

There's a teenage boy, unconscious in the grass. His skin is white with the cold, and he's not wearing a jacket or shoes. He doesn't know the boy, but he recognizes him, recognizes his own sons in him, the other victims in him.

And the man is digging. He's so intent on his project that he doesn't even hear John sneak up. He doesn't even see him as John stands there, staring in a mixture of disbelief and anger. He doesn't even hear him take out his gun and aim it. He doesn't acknowledge John at all until John releases the safety with a telltale click.

The man freezes and John already recognizes the nondescript figure. He is panting a little, shovel still in his hands, and he is remarkably clean despite his activities.

Slowly, his movements cautious and simple, the man turns and looks up at him.

Their eyes meet and it's like it's three years ago and they're both inside the crypt in Duluth, Minnesota, just the two of them and all their secrets and lies.

"John Winchester," he says and it's like he's greeting an old friend. "I didn't expect to see you here."

It's John who smiles now, grimly and decidedly. "I didn't think you'd be so stupid," he said. "Did you think I wouldn't pick up your pattern again?"

Garrett shrugs noncommittally. "I thought maybe you'd learned your lesson," he said. "That maybe you'd taken those two boys of yours and settled down, given them a real life. I heard they both survived, by the way."

John snapped, "They're both fine and safe." He's had enough of this, enough of the cockiness, enough of his words, enough of him.

Garrett laughs, nodding cordially. "For now anyway."

"I did learn my lesson," John said, straightening his aim. "And they're better than they were before. If we stick together, if we train hard enough, nothing will get us."

"You actually believe that," Garrett says, surprised. "You think if you and those two boys of yours rage against the dying of the light long enough, that you can stop it? That's what most people think. That victory is in the fight." He sighs a little. "Sometimes victory is in the letting go."

John's trembling now, shaking with barely controlled emotion. The words are hard and true and wrong and he wants to spit on them, spit on this man, beat him till he's bloody.

Garrett waits for a second, still and watching. Then he purses his lips and his eyes narrow. "What are you going to do, John? How will you protect them? If it's not me--"

That's all the incentive John needs to pull the trigger.

Garrett falls without a sound, without even twitching, and the sound of the gunshot dissipated into silence in the cold night.

He let his aim fall, peering over the edge of the hole.

The man is sprawled, the shovel just beyond his hand. A dark stain spreadsacross his chest, from a bullet to the heart.

He feels like there should be more. There should be relief, satisfaction, something, but instead he just feels cold. The night has seeped into his bones and suddenly he just wants to get out.

But he can't. Not yet. There are still too many loose ends.

He turns and looks back at the boy on the grass. Looking closer, he can see the boy is probably 15 or 16. He has dark hair that needs to be trimmed and for a moment, it reminds him a little too much of Sam. But his face is rounder, a bit more full, and his features are soft and gentle. John rolls him gently on his back and feels for a pulse. The skin is cold--a little too cold--but he's alive. He ghosts his hands over the kid's body and finds a lump on the back of his head, so he's pretty sure how the kid ended up here.

The boy should be shivering more than he is, so John takes off his jacket and drapes it over the teen. He could just call 911 and give them a tip, but that won't do. He needs to dispose of the body and he doesn't want the kid to have to wait because it seems like he's probably waited more than he has to in a lifetime.

So he scoops up the boy into his arms, careful with his head, and takes him back to the truck. He lays the kid in the passenger's seat, tucking his own coat securely around him.

He drives fast and careful, periodically placing a hand on the boy to make sure he's okay. It seems like just a knock to the head, but the kid is still out cold, and that worries John more than he thinks it should.

Because it can't get personal. He's never let himself get involved with a victim.

But this isn't a regular case. And he doesn't know this boy's name, but he knows something about the pain he's gone through, the pain he almost went through, and John feels like he knows him well enough.

When he gets to the hospital, he hands the kid over and feeds them a sob story about being in the right place at the right time. He stays until the parents arrive, a nice looking couple with two other kids in tow. They're both crying and when they hear about John they want to glom all over him, hugs and thanks and tears.

John just smiles and nods and leaves them when they see their son.

As he leaves, he takes one look through the swinging doors to see the boy sitting and awake, smiling and letting his mother hug him. His younger sister is tugging at his arm and his older brother ruffles his hair.

John walks out and doesn't look back again.

-o-

He stops in the graveyard and salts and burns Garrett. He doesn't want to have to come back here. It's the freshest body he's ever burned, but he doesn't feel an ounce of regret as the stench fills his nostrils.

While the embers are still burning, he reburies the hole that Garrett made for the boy and he takes a certain pleasure as the ashes disappear beneath the dirt.

He's supposed to meet Dean in Colorado so the fastest route would be due east, but he convinces himself that he needs a few days off and takes a detour through California. He stops in Palo Alto, but never gets out of his truck, just lingers long enough to catch a glimpse of his son carrying his backpack and nursing a cup of coffee, talking to a friend and smiling.

And it's just good to know Sam's alive, that Sam's okay, that even if they're not together, maybe there's still something good in this mess that is their lives.

-o-

He's two days late when he gets to Colorado and Dean is anxious, but trying not to show it.

John smiles and claps his son on his shoulder.

Dean just looks at him, a little confused by the affection. "You okay, Dad? Was there a problem on the hunt?"

And John almost says yes, almost explains everything, but he can't find the words. He just stands there and looks at his son. He pats Dean's shoulder again, empathically this time. "No," he says. "No problems at all."

end