Author's Note: A birthday present for the wonderful authoressnebula, whose stories I love. And a warning: here in Australia we've only just seen "On the head of a pin" so this has probably already been Kripked. I hope you enjoy it anyway.
On the day the world didn't end, Dean Winchester sat on the side of a volcano that eight hours' before had been a small green hill. Hell might not be literally inside the earth, but its occupants still had an affinity for the fire that lay below the earth's crust and in their death throes they had brought it to the surface. Geologists were going to have a field day trying to explain the sudden eruption of a volcano far from the edge of any tectonic plates, in a state without any hotspots. Dean didn't care.
All Dean cared about was Sam, lying quietly in his arms. Sammy, whose eyes had been clear hazel again, and who had smiled at Dean and said his name before falling into sleep, or unconsciousness. Not death; Dean's left hand was curled around Sam's neck monitoring his pulse.
With his right hand Dean slowly, gently, soothingly, pushed the filthy, sweaty hair back from Sam's forehead. They were together, and they were brothers; and Sam was sleeping and wouldn't know when the lava reached them. Although with the way the air was thickening it would probably be the gases that killed them first. Dean didn't care. They were together and they were brothers and this was the way that they had always been meant to go. Together. Saving the world.
There were no directions: no up or down; no left or right; no north, south, east, west. There was no sight; no sound. But if Castiel had had to describe the experience to humans, and he was getting better at such descriptions, he would have said that it was like standing in the centre of a rainbow, surrounded by the sound of bells. And wouldn't Dean Winchester snicker if he knew that as a mere angel Castiel's colour in this rainbow was violet. Castiel was going to make sure that was something Dean never found out.
"It is not fair."
Many things that the One does seem unfair. Fairness has never been considered an attribute of the One.
"Maybe not, but the One is meant to be the epitome of justice. To leave the Winchesters to die after all they have done is not just."
Death is the One's gift to mortals, argued one of the archangels
"Both Winchesters have already died," Castiel retorted, "and neither of them found it much of a gift." He caught himself before he could say more. Channelling Dean Winchester's attitude wasn't going to help him convince his sisters and brothers.
We cannot interfere. Humans die. That is how the One created them. They are mortal. That was one of the cherubim, much higher in the hierarchy than Castiel. But she sounded … regretful?
"I'm not suggesting they become immortal," Castiel said, as persuasively as he could. "I just want to take them from that mountain and place them somewhere safe." And go on keeping then safe for another fifty years, he added silently to himself.
They are heroes, said another angel. Maybe they have earned life? Maybe this is what the One wants?
There was silence at that. Recent events had proved that the heavenly host could find it as hard as humans did to discern the will of the One.
I, said a sonorous voice, have always been fascinated by the car. It was a complete non-sequitur, and had it been said by anyone less than a seraph it would have been ignored. But as it was …
"The Impala?" Castiel asked, politely.
Yes. It is very unusual for a mechanical object to be loved into sentience. Maybe a new life is being born? I think we should allow that life to continue to develop. And watch it.
For a moment that made no sense at all, and Castiel was about to resume his pleading, disguised as logical argument, on the Winchesters' behalf. Then suddenly it all came together.
"Of course. I will ensure that this possible new life continues." And the rainbow and the bells and his sisters and brothers were gone, as Castiel went to find a '67 Chevy Impala and the family that were loving a soul into her.
When Dean woke up Sam was no longer in his arms, and for a moment he panicked. But then he heard Sammy's patented waking-up snuffle coming from his right, and looking over he saw his little brother exactly where he should be, in the passenger seat of the Impala. And the sun was rising; and the sign in front of him said: "Grand Canyon".