(well. what do you know. final chapter. amazing, huh? i still don't own supernatural, and i still don't intend any offense, and i still hope you enjoy it.)
Dean hides in sleep.
After all, his cover's been blown. Contrary to popular belief, he does know when a cause is lost. Coughing up gallons of blood was irrefutable proof that he is not okay, and there is no use pretending that things aren't far beyond fucked up when everybody knows perfectly well that they are. Even if so far he's the only one to know the real reason why.
Stupid. Stupidstupidstupid. The word echoes mockingly in his head, but it's not his voice. It's not Nicnivin's voice, either. It's Sam's voice, and Dad's, and he's not going to listen. He chose this road, chose something for himself alone for maybe the first time in his life, and he is just as stubborn as any other Winchester. He wants, no, he needs to know for sure where he stands. So while he waits for the answer, sleep is his escape, just like silence was when the hunt was new. When he was new. Still shiny and pure under the thin layer of soot.
He's not anything close to shiny now, and he takes his comforts where he can. So he sleeps.
It hurts that Sam and Dad do exactly what he wants and let him get away with that. They even make attempts at keeping their voices down when they fight. Hissing like angry rattlers. It's hardly an improvement. Burning sting of disappointment. So very familiar by now.
But nothing hurts when he sleeps.
In the dreams, with his white dogs, there is no pain and no doubt and no hesitation, just clear, exhilarating purpose. He is at the same time calm and confident and wildly, dangerously elated, and his voice, bronze and immense like some ancient great bell, casts his resounding challenge to the sky.
Bobby's hand on his shoulder, firm and determined, pulls him away from his gossamer sanctuary. The dogs whine pitifully, desperately, like it physically hurts them when he leaves. There's no mistaking that sound – he's made it often enough himself, swallowed it down and bitten it back, choked on it until he made himself sick – and to hear it voiced now because of him? Even if it's just the damn dogs, stupid dogs that aren't even really real, fucking faery dogs that see him and listen to him and love him when they have no reason to and goddamnit it's all so fucking fucked up.
"This has gone on damn well long enough," Bobby informs him, and yeah, Dean agrees wholeheartedly. It has. And he loves Bobby, he really does, but in this moment he hates him in equal measure. Because Bobby's not Dad, and yet he's sitting here doing what Dad should be doing. If he loves you enough. Dad's one of the best there is at pattern recognition, everybody says so, so why, why, why doesn't he see this? Why doesn't he see Dean?
Dean picks at the faded green blanket, tugs it closer around himself with hands that seem paler than they should be, alien, blue veins drawn on in permanent marker. He's cold, like he always is these days, cold and so very tired, and he really doesn't want to do this. Not now. Not ever. No chick-flick moments. But since when have his wants ever been taken into account? Taking a deep breath, he focuses on Rumsfeld's comforting weight on his feet, Rumsfeld who, if Dean doesn't look straight at him, is flickering white in the half-light.
"Dean. Snap out of it. Talk to me." It's as close to pleading as Dean's ever heard out of Bobby's mouth, and it makes something inside him curl up in shame. Bobby deserves better. Shouldn't have to deal with Winchester crap. "I just want to help you, you know that."
Dean does know, and he's an ungrateful little brat. "Bobby...I don't...I can't...please." Please don't make me tell you how much I've fucked up. Please don't make me.
"Stop being a damn idiot, boy!"
Dean flinches, but it's not because of Bobby. Downstairs, something crashes to the floor. It's muffled, but there's no mistaking the rumbling grizzly growl of Dad in a mood, or the obnoxious magpie triumph of Sam, not satisfied until he shoves his sharp beak straight into a nerve.
And this time the mounting pain feels nothing like being stabbed. It's unhurried, burning merciless like the sun, and it says hello again, Dean. Let's play.
It likes him. It really, really likes him. His body tenses under the suddenly crushing weight of the blanket, jaw clenching, knuckles turning breathlessly pale, nothing but bone and sinew, no, no, no...
"Just...what...what are you thinking, Dean? Why are you-" Bobby rubs the back of his neck in agitation, his voice almost breaking on the last word. Dean hates to see it. He never ever meant to upset Bobby. "You're killing yourself!"
"She said..." He swallows thickly, hoping the saliva will drown the whimper that's clawing its way up his throat. "-she said it'd make them stop fighting." And god, how pathetic can he get?
"She? She who, Dean?"
"Our most gracious Queen of the Blackberry Patch," Dean whispers, and Rumsfeld is most definitely white now, and downstairs the voices are getting louder, louder, louder until...
"I hate this life! I hate you! I wish you'd died with Mom in the fire!"
The darkness had been deep enough that not even the dogs could follow him down, and when he wakes from it the world is dead.
It's night (still? again?) but it's just black. Dusty and dry and lifeless. There are stars, but they're just burning balls of gas, aeons away from him. They don't sing to him any more. He is an island. Removed.
There is no pain. There's nothing else, either.
They expect him to be grateful.
They've saved him, haven't they? They love him so much, and they've saved him and he should be grateful.
It's Scandinavian magic, the thing chained around his neck. Cold iron forged into a rough broken circle, the ends crossing and curling into tight spirals. Lovingly crafted on three Thursday evenings from nine kinds of iron, blessed at Mass on the three Sundays following, it's powerful magic to ward off the fae.
Fae cross. Ellekors.
Dean loathes it.
The darkness had been deep enough that not even the dogs could follow him down, and when he woke from it they were gone and the world was dead.
Rumsfeld follows the car when they leave, runs recklessly along the dirt road in the cloud of dust that marks their passing. All the way down to the interstate he follows them, and Dean watches him get smaller and smaller until he can't see him anymore.
Since he is saved now, since he doesn't shake or burn or bleed at their words anymore, since he stopped being a liability, Dad and Sam have gone back to the tried and true: don't ask, don't tell. Physical pain has always trumped mental in the past, so why should it be any different now?
He'd thought that maybe, maybe now that they've seen in red and white what they do to him, maybe they'd change. Try to get along. For his sake.
Yeah. And the demon will walk up to them one day and apologize.
If wishes were fishes we'd all lay nets. If they love you enough.
And if they don't?
"God damn it, Dean, I'm doing it for you!"
Sam is packing. Neat even in his anger, he jerkily folds t-shirts and underwear, shoving them into the duffel bag. Efficient, Sammy is. Better be. He's stuffing his entire life in there. His entire life except Dean.
Sam is leaving.
Dean is just cold.
"You better run that by me again, Sammy." he says, in a voice that doesn't sound like his own. Cold and dry and empty. "Because I could swear you just said you're walking out on us for my sake."
"Yes! You almost died, Dean! Because of me and Dad. This is the best I can do for you, don't you see that?"
No. No, he really doesn't. What he sees is that Sam wants an easy out, a guilt-free escape to his precious apple-pie life. He's not getting one. Not this time.
"I'm not stupid, Sam. You wanna leave, fine. But don't try to dress it up as some kind of selfless sacrifice, because it damn well isn't."
Silence. The insult of the door sliding closed with a soft snick, instead of slamming shut hard enough to rattle the windows. And then Sam is gone.
Just like that.
Something is better than nothing.
Hunt after hunt after hunt, and it feels like forever since Dean applied the word family to his Dad and himself – but at least they're mostly on the same side. Saving people, hunting things. Dean doesn't talk, but then neither does John (Dad), except to bark orders.
John seems determined to singlehandedly rid the United States of everything supernatural, and more and more he sends Dean off alone, to cover more ground.
It's far from okay. But he'll deal. It's what he does, right?
Something is better than nothing.
Until the day when he comes back from a solo hunt in New Orleans to find their motel room neatly cleaned and terrifyingly empty.
And if they don't...if they don't-
There's mist coming off the river, swathing the dreaming trees in milky layers of gauze. It winds around Dean's legs like a curious cat, watching expectantly, waiting.
Running water neutralizes magic.
A deep breath, and then he yanks off the chain that holds the ellekors, the chain that binds him to a world that is colourless and dead, all in the name of saving him. There's nobody left to save him for, now, and he throws the amulet into the water with vicious satisfaction.
"Nicnivin!" He shouts her name at the top of his lungs, and it sounds like it did in his dreams, the bronze bell, the silver horn, clear and true and unafraid. "Nicnivin!"
The moon is blue.