This story has been sitting on my computer for months. I originally intended to write a chapter story on Dean getting out of his deal. Hmmm, well I guess time's up on that thought and with so many other projects underway, it doesn't appear this one will ever get written. Therefore, I changed a few things and finished it out as a one shot.

I never write death fics and I firmly believe Dean will be saved… Does anyone truly doubt that? I'm not sure how or to what end Dean will go before he is saved, but Jensen and Dean are too important to the success of Supernatural for anyone to fear Dean Winchester would actually die… and stay gone! Thank goodness!

Personally, I also needed a deeper emotional moment than LDC provided and this gives me more of what I was hoping for. I hope you enjoy reading. Take care, B.J.

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"Every man's life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another." - Ernest Hemingway

Monument Valley

"DEAN!" Sam's scream was raw and unbridled, coarse as it ripped from his throat.

Beads of sweat glistened across his brow as he sprang up in a panic, absolute terror contorting his face, his gut twisting in upon itself as the anguish deepened, an unbearable horror poised on the edge of his consciousness just waiting to pounce. It was a dream, just a dream. He shook from the intensity of the dream… nightmare… vivid and real as Dean was ripped to shreds by the hellhounds and dragged off to Hell and all he did was stand by watching, helpless… useless… powerless to stop it.

He gasped for breath and tried to still the heaving of his chest, concentrating on settling down, on calming the roiling anguish that threatened to consume him. He quickly rolled over to reassure himself that they still had time… Dean still had time; that the contract hadn't yet come due. Wiping the sleep from his eyes he tried to focus on the rumpled bed next to him.

Empty.

Panic again latched hold of him.

Kicking his own covers to the floor, he scrambled to his feet and stared at the dark room. The only chair sat empty by the door, Dean's duffel casually laying at its feet. His eyes scanned the rest of the room bathed in an eerie haze from the parking lot security lights, only able to make out dark shapes and forms, none bearing a resemblance to his brother. The bathroom door was propped open but the light was off. Carefully, Sam walked to the doorway and gazed inside.

Empty.

Where the hell are you, Dean?

The keys to the Impala glistened from the slight illumination of the night light, still lying undisturbed on the dresser where Dean had flung them when they settled in for the night. Sam sucked in a breath and reached out to touch them, thankful no scrap of paper was tucked beneath. No note saying goodbye or take care of her; no final farewell acknowledging it was over. It was an irrational fear. Dean wouldn't do that to him, but still the fear lingered. Terror was a constant these last few weeks.

Damn it, Dean, where are you?

He probably just went out for coffee, but where? There wasn't a whole heck of a lot around, at least nothing open in the middle of the night within walking distance. Sam looked at the clock, time now being of utmost concern, always pressing on his mind.

Five-twenty. What the hell?

Reaching for his clothes left on top of his duffel, he quickly dressed, pulling on his boots and grabbing the room key. Before he left he flicked on the lights and made one final pass just to insure Dean wasn't lying unconscious on the floor, nervously chuckling to himself that right about now that could be considered a good thing.

At least I'd know where he was. Know he was still here, not yet taken by the hellhounds. It was an irrational fear, but anymore it seemed like any thought brought dread and despair… and more fear. Shake it off; it's not his time yet.

We still have time.

It was dark and cold outside, colder than Southern Utah had a right to be, especially at this time of the year. Summer was coming. Long days of warm breezes and cool lakes, sun and surf, Dean flirting with all the pretty girls in short shorts and bikinis, and… Sam blinked back the terror… death.

Dean's death, unless we find an out.

The Impala had a light misting of dew on the windshield and side windows obscuring the view inside. The car keys still sat back on the dresser in the room and Dean always locked his baby up at night, but Sam held out hope Dean would be sleeping in the backseat or sitting in the driver's seat with his hands loosely wrapped around the steering wheel staring out into the black of night. It had been a long time since he'd found his brother like that, but it had happened on occasion when Dean felt the need to think or if he just wanted to be alone.

Him and his baby contemplating whatever it was that kept Dean up at night. Whatever monsters dwelt in the dark recesses of his mind tormenting him and refusing to let him rest. The constant weight of this deal now the most troubling thought stealing sleep from the night.

Sam used his jacket sleeve to wipe away the condensation on the driver's side window and peered inside at the empty interior. A pamphlet was laying open on the middle of the front seat and the back had an old Arby's wrapper scrunched up in a ball and tossed on the floorboards, but no Dean.

The distant noise of the highway was a gentle but constant reminder that there was life still; that the world was going to keep spinning and people would still be scurrying about from here to there, long-haul truckers still pushing themselves and their rigs to the limit trying to finish their last run before stopping to rest.

That was the main lesson Sam had learned on this final journey, that even if it felt like your world was ending, even if the world was actually heading toward that final big bang with a hundred demons plotting its total destruction, people didn't notice. Folk just went about their business, oblivious to the impending doom.

Ignorance is bliss… until fate appears and bites you in the ass.

John Winchester learned that lesson twenty-four years ago.

The Winchesters were never again so lucky as to hide behind ignorance. They'd known the world was poised on the razor's edge of destruction for too long, the knowledge only recently taking on more urgency.

An overbearing responsibility had been laid on their shoulders once the Gates to Hell had been opened and the weight was staggering, but even that was nothing compared to the weight of Dean's impending fate.

The deal was a constant in their lives. Every day Sam looked into his brother's eyes and tried to gauge how he was feeling… what he was feeling, and all he saw was a man trying to grab all the gusto in life, trying to cram sixty years of living into 365 days… then 300… 200… 100… and now finally down to the final two weeks. Dean was a man on a mission and he was driving full throttle to experience all the booze, women, and frivolity he could. Trying the only way he knew how to grab hold of life and hold on.

Sam was a man waiting… dreading and praying as time slipped through their fingers.

Dean had quieted down since he admitted he didn't want to die, didn't want to go to Hell. It was almost as if giving up the pretense had set him free. He no longer stayed out late looking for action; either boisterously partying or drowning his sorrows, depending on your point of view and the particular night. He hung close with his brother; the simple, quiet moments they shared steadily building.

Sometimes Dean almost seemed reflective, pondering the meaning of life and what he was going to leave behind; sharing stories of the past and following through on being the big brother teaching his kid brother the ropes, not just on fixing the car but on living… and dying. Some days Sam thought his head would explode from all the random tidbits of knowledge Dean laid on him, but he soaked it all up, not wanting the pointers and insights, the amusing Deanisms, to ever stop. Knowing one day soon without a miracle they would.

Sam had revealed to his brother that he prayed every day back on the Father Gregory angel gig. Dean then painfully revealed his own secret, another hurt from his childhood. The punch in the gut he'd received from God, the confirmation that angels weren't watching over him, that Mom had been wrong.

God and his angels had let Mom die, stealing any faith her four year old son might have held onto in his time of need. Leaving her full grown son with only himself to depend on if he hoped to break free of this demon deal.

And me.

Dean had looked shocked and slightly bemused, but also grateful.

Together, Dean, we'll find a way. We will. Trust me.

And he had.

What else could he do?

Every day Sam prayed that angels were watching over Dean, that God would step in to halt this injustice, that Dean could be saved… would be saved. For all they'd endured and sacrificed in their fight against evil, Sam had to believe that the Winchesters deserved one miracle. It was a desperate prayer and he wasn't quite sure he believed it was possible, but it was worth a shot.

Dean was worth the off-chance that God might be listening.

And if God ever listened to man and intervened then now would be the time.

What kind of God could ignore Dean Winchester after all he's done to save the world?

Sam wasn't depending solely on God's mercy. He'd chased down every possible out, every improbable lead and come up empty. He wasn't going to quit… I won't give up on you, Dean… but time was running out and no answer had appeared. He felt like a freakin' magician with his arm buried up to his elbow in a black top hat and he couldn't pull the damn rabbit out if his life depended on it. And Dean's life did depend on it.

The twisting, sinking feeling in his gut was getting more intense as each day passed and hope began to fade, retreating back into the darkness that had always encircled the Winchesters and taking them one day closer to the end. Dean's end.

Bobby and every ally left alive were in on the chase, racing down to the wire to stop this deal. Dean was noticeably worried but resigned, often smiling softly as Sam ran possible saves past him, while at other times boisterously arguing the cockamamie plan was destined to fail and the risk was too great. Desperately hoping an out existed but unwilling to chance Sam's life in the pursuit, conflicted between wanting to live and needing to insure his kid brother was safe. Often diverting his own terrors by focusing on Sam and how he was dealing, trying to shove his own thoughts and feelings down into the depths of denial, unwilling or unable to deal with them.

The cold air accosted Sam as he circled the motel parking lot, trying once again to get inside his brother's head, get a feel for where he might have headed, what he might be doing. His mind was awash with nothing. In some ways he felt closer to Dean, more connected than ever before; both of them wanting to be close and treasure the time they had before it was gone, but still there was a distance, an impenetrable gulf separating them. Dean more and more getting lost in his head, disappearing into his own thoughts, still hiding behind that formidable wall with only fleeting glimpses behind the barrier.

Dean was a mystery, appearing more layered and complex as each day slipped away.

This motel a prime example. Certainly not their usual fare, and Sam had no clue why Dean had driven here. Goulding's Lodge was a destination motel in the middle of nowhere. Sam wasn't sure why Dean wanted to stay here, but he hoped when he found him he'd find out. Maybe at long last unlock one secret.

They'd pulled in late last night and it was already dark, the surrounding landscape obliterated by a pitch-black, moonless night. The lodge an oasis of light plopped down in a sea of black. Sam had been half asleep in the car, nodding off as they crossed the Arizona border and headed north. He'd awoken to find Dean had already checked them in for two nights. That in itself was revealing. They weren't on a case yet, still looking for the next big bad, still searching out a possible save for Dean, seemingly on a random jog across the country.

Sam shivered as a wave of cold slithered down his neck but he shook off the worry, Dean had to be around here somewhere. He was wandering down the blacktop driveway toward the main entrance and through the murky black of night he spied a lone figure perched atop one of the square stone columns spaced every five or six feet anchoring the rustic wooden fence that surrounded the parking lot.

As he approached Dean glanced back over his shoulder to acknowledge him. Sam continued until he was standing behind him slightly to the left side. The brothers were now almost at the same height, Sam standing and Dean sitting atop the column.

"Dean?"

"Hey, Sammy."

Dean was staring out toward the blackness beyond reach, a sliver of light just beginning to slice across the distant formations.

Sam's voice was hesitant, searching, "What's up with you?"

"Just thinkin'," came the soft reply.

"Yeah?" Sam stepped forward beside his brother and leaned down against the wooden part of the fence. His hands folded together as his elbows rested on the crossbeam of wood. "Thinkin' about what?"

Dean looked down and Sam could feel the smile, his brother's face still hidden in the shadows but something was present, a serenity, a calm.

"Dean? What is it?"

Dean breathed in the morning air, fresh and new. The cool, crisp, snap of the brisk morning easing the tension he'd felt locked up in the confines of the motel room. "It's quiet out here. Peaceful." He stared out at the expanse of open land just beginning to come into view as the morning light filtered across the landscape. "It calms me down." A serene stillness filled the air between the brothers until Dean again spoke. "You know the Indians think this land is sacred. That it's a spiritual place." It wasn't a question, more a statement of fact, and then Dean softly chuckled. "Not our kind of spirits."

"Yeah?" Sam acknowledged, slightly surprised that Dean was into the whole Native American spiritual journey stuff. Especially remembering how Joe White Tree of the Euchee Tribe had slammed him for being a liar. "You on a spiritual quest, Dean?"

Dean laughed and it was good to hear, light and breezy and sincere.

"Me? Nah… but you gotta admit, it's different than the city. It's just… " Dean stopped and stared out into space.

"What, Dean?" Sam softly questioned, all attention focused on his brother.

Dean released a gentle sigh and seemed to breathe in the scene just coming alive before them as the sun slowly peeked out around the hills. "Makes you realize how big the world is… how small we are. Sammy, I just needed to see somethin' good."

Sam swallowed hard, his eyes starting to mist over. "Something good?"

"Yeah. Something pure and unblemished." Dean drew in a deep breath and sighed. "It's just been so long, man. We've seen so much.., we've done so much… there's so much evil in the world, and I just wanted to see if there was something out there that's still untouched by it."

The tears broke free from Sam's eyes and travelled down his cheeks. His heart was filled with so much emotion: love for his big brother, joy that Dean could still find something of beauty in this world considering all they'd seen and done and what he now faced, terror that Dean was grabbing hold of one last moment and it would soon be taken away, anger that he wasn't able to stop this travesty and save his brother so they could spend a lifetime sharing all these precious moments.

The sun finally peeked out from behind the rocky formations in the distance, bathing the panoramic view in morning light, and the view was spectacular. A straight ribbon of blacktop cut through the valley and on toward the towering columns of Monument Valley. The purples and dusty pinks of the siltstone contrasting with the grassy greens and red sands of the valley making one understand all the photographers and artists who are drawn to the brilliant palette of this paradise, this refuge from all the ugliness in the world.

"Sammy, just look at that sunrise. Now that's awesome." Dean sat up straighter and seemed to be drawing in the splendor of the morning, his eyes content and serene, his face so youthful and free… of worry or stress, of all the intense pressures he'd toiled under for most of his life. He squinted into the morning sun that was beaming across his face and for once he looked at peace.

Precious time lingered as the brothers simply communed with nature until Dean finally breached the bliss of the moment and again spoke, "You know these rock formations have been here for centuries? The wind and rain beating down on them, wearing away bits and pieces of 'em over the years, constantly changing and reshaping 'em, but they're still there. Monuments that have stood the test of time. And they're still gonna be here long after we're gone."

"Yeah… " Sam dug his heel into the red dirt beneath his feet, unclasping his hands and grabbing the rough wood of the fence in a firm grip with both hands, shifting his weight as he finally raised his eyes back up to his brother and with a trembling voice asked, "So, Dean, what else you thinking about?"

Dean glanced back at his brother and his lips curved up in a pensive smile, fresh tears glistening in his eyes. "You.. me... Life.. death… " He smirked then as he lowered his gaze. "The usual." His dimples flashed above his tender smile before a serious look crept over his face. Earnestly he locked eyes with his brother, trying to forge a connection as he cracked open the door. "Death comes to us all and I never thought I'd fear it. I mean, how can you fear something that's a sure bet?" He nervously cleared his throat. "What is it they say about a coward and a brave man?"

Sam kept his voice low and sure, valiantly trying to not fall apart. "A coward dies many deaths, a brave man dies but one."

"Yeah, that's it." Dean shook his head slowly up and down, deep in thought. He raised his head and gazed out at the expanse before him. "I never wanted to be a coward, Sammy… I think you know that."

Sam's voice broke, "God, Dean, you're not. You could never be. You're the bravest man I know." Sam tried to smile as his eyes shimmered, filled with tears as he gazed with total love and admiration upon his brother. "Being scared doesn't make you a coward, Dean. It only makes you human."

"Yeah.., yeah, I know." Dean turned and looked deep into his eyes, the love and pain and fear right there in those expressive eyes. He revealed his heart then. "Sammy, I'm scared. I'm really scared."

Sam blinked back his tears as he softly whispered, "I know, Dean… I know." He rose up to his full height and moved as close as he could get to his brother, wrapping his right arm across his broad shoulders, giving a slight squeeze at the juncture with his neck, pulling his brother to him.

Dean leaned into the embrace, his hands gripping his knees as he let out a soft sigh. He turned his head toward Sam and he smiled, his dimples offering up all his love. "Sammy, I'm sorry to do this to ya. I am. But all things considered, it was the only play I had at the time and I couldn't let you die. I just couldn't do it." He sniffled then as his bottom lip quivered, his eyes filled with tears and his voice subtly broke. "I don't want to die, Sammy. I don't want to leave you. I sure as hell don't want to go to Hell. But it's coming and I can't stop it and it's freaking me out 'cause this is it, forever… " He paused for a moment to catch his breath and then his voice hitched as he continued, "I'm so scared, Sammy… I don't know what to do. I feel so alone, so lost." As all the emotion played out on his face he tried to smile, tried to hold it together, and then one lone tear rolled down his cheek.

"You're not alone, Dean… I'm here… I'm with you." Sam pulled him closer into his embrace and Dean settled into the strong grip, allowing this moment of comfort. He shook slightly as all the tension ebbed from his body, finally free to feel the pain of his life and the fear of his impending death and the eternity that was waiting to claim him.

Sam's other hand came up and gripped him on the upper arm, holding on tight in a vise hold. "God, Dean… I'm with you, big brother. You're not alone… I got you… I got you."

They stayed locked in their embrace watching the sun slowly rise. The majesty of the scene before them offering hope, a glimpse through God's eyes at the wonders of this world, making it hard to believe such evil as they'd seen could possibly co-exist alongside such beauty.

Never one for emotional displays or pensive musings Dean soon grew restless. He wiped the tears from his eyes and leaned forward again, shaking out his shoulders and growing ever taller and more sure. Sam reluctantly released him from his grip with a firm pat on the back, the fingers of his hand lingering with a light touch, gently massaging the tense muscles in his shoulders.

Dean silently gazed out at the peaceful scene before him, a contented smile on his face as his eyes filled with wondrous joy. "Oh, man, Sammy, have you ever seen such a sight?"

Sam glanced sideways at his strong, determined brother. "Yeah, Dean… it's something." He blinked back the tears and tried to smile. "It's nice… I'm glad you brought us here."

Dean again turned and looked at his brother, really looked as if he was committing the sight to memory. "Yeah, me too."

Sam cleared his throat and tried for normal, only his glistening eyes and the slight twitch of his lip indicating how hard that was. "So, Dean, how'd you find this place?"

Dean quirked his brows and smirked as he eyed his brother, quickly burying the emotions of the moment and moving on. "Sasha, my personal tour guide. Whatcha think?" And then he laughed as he again found refuge in normal, the Winchesters' version of normal. The bantering of two brothers their normal response to the insanity of the abnormal world they lived in.

"C'mon, what?" Sam probed; knowing from the glint in Dean's eye there was an interesting story here somewhere.

"Saw a picture," Dean confessed with a laugh.

"Yeah? Where?"

Dean grinned, broad and joyous, his dimples deep as the fine lines crinkled around his glimmering eyes. "On a Led Zeppelin DVD… at the store."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah… I dunno, it just looked interesting so I, y'know, read up."

Sam couldn't resist as he broke in. "You read up? Like a book?"

"Hell, no… You for real, dude? C'mon, college boy!" Dean offered his standard indignant sigh while simultaneously laughing, finding joy and refuge in the moment. "The internet. We're not in the dark ages here, plug in and learn, bro. I googled it. This view right here… exact same pic on Wikipedia. Find out everything you'd ever wanted to know on the net."

"Yeah?" Sam laughed. "Should've known."

"Anyway, I thought it'd be cool. Did ya know John Wayne made a bunch of westerns here? Him and John Ford stayed right here at this lodge." He waggled his brows and smirked. "It's historic."

"Really?" Sam smiled and nodded, finding joy in watching Dean relax and in sharing this moment. "That is pretty cool."

"Yeah, I thought so." Dean hopped off of the column he'd been sitting on and jumped over the wooden portion of the fence and he was standing next to his brother. He playfully backhanded Sam's arm as he strode off. "C'mon, I booked a tour for us at eight. But we gotta grab some breakfast first. I'm starving."

"A tour?" Sam scoffed. "You booked a tour?"

"Yeah, Sammy… a tour." He smirked and arched his brows suggestively. "Got us a girl tour guide too. We're gonna see it all, Sammy… the VIP tour. They take you way out into the backcountry in a jeep. You'll love it. Just your style too… " He jabbed him in the ribs. "I hear the jeep's pink."

Sam laughed and stared at his brother with a goofy grin. "Wait a minute here… You're actually going to ride in a pink jeep with a girl driver?"

Dean offered a puzzled, almost hurt look. "What? You sexist now? You think a girl can't drive?"

"Not me… you, dude. You really don't have a problem with this?"

Dean smiled and wiggled his brows. "Not when she's as cute as Miss Veronica Littleman."

"You've met her?"

"Yep. She signed me up last night." Dean couldn't stop smiling. "Dude, she is seriously hot."

"Okay, then… copy that…" Now Sam was the one who couldn't stop smiling, his dimples pits on his face. "But seriously, Dean… a pink jeep?"

Dean shrugged his shoulders. "It's what they drive; besides, it's a crappy, dirt road and you need the four-wheel drive to get back to the good stuff. Sammy, you really think I'm gonna let my baby bottom out on a road like that? No way, Dude!"

Sam grinned, enjoying Dean's enthusiasm and remembering they still had two weeks left. The Winchesters had defeated evil countless times before with less. The stress had been a monster on their backs for the last few weeks and it felt good to forget, if only for a day. And it seemed like Dean needed this, and then Sam's mind travelled to the car. Dean's baby. Neither of them had given up on her when she was nothing more than a pile of scrap and look at her now. Sam would be damned if he'd give up on Dean. He slapped his brother on the back, stealing one more touch. "You're right, man. No way we let anything happen to that car."

The End

bjxmas

May 2008

All standard disclaimers apply.

Southern Utah has some of the most spectacular National Parks in the US. Bryce Canyon is my own personal favorite, but Monument Valley, Canyonlands, Zion, and Arches National Parks all have their own distinctive charms. Personally, I am always more at peace and centered when I am there. Just the thought that these monuments have been shaped by nature for centuries and are still there, that settlers and Native American's walked the same land years ago gives you a connection to the past and a glance toward the future.

Trust me; if you get the chance take the Southern Utah park tour. It is well worth the time and if you connect with the land like I have, you'll want to go back time and again. Later, B.J.