Disclaimer: Don't own. No harm intended. Fair use only.

"It shouldn't be taking this long." Doc didn't sound any more human with his head in the fish aquarium, air pump gurgling over his larynx for effect. (What, Sam had needed another experiment to keep himself occupied while he waited for Dean to get better?) It took Sam two days to figure out how to translate glub, glub, glub, but the oxygenated solution in the water seemed to be working wonders on Doc's complexion, so Sam left him in the tank a couple hours a day at least.

"Dean's just stubborn."

"No one can hold it off that long. And why would he even want to? This is obviously less pleasant for him than anyone." The last few words were nearly lost as Doc snapped his jaws over one of Smelly Cat's prodding paws. The cat yowled, spit, and fell into the tank, nearly losing the end of its tail to the same snapping teeth before scampering away to some tune Sam didn't recognize.

"Wanna bet?" Sam didn't honestly believe this setback was setting him back farther than Dean. He was pretty sure Dean gave up his afterlife for this one.

"He's just... resistant. For some reason, the process just isn't going to completion. There's a limiting factor we don't know about."

"So, you're saying his new nervous system and his old one are trying to operate the same meat suit."

"It's making him hypersensitive. He feels too much."

"But he only needs one system to function, right?"

"Yes, but short of spinal dissection, there's no way to... you wouldn't." The aquarium pump fizzed louder in the silence that followed, like a pot of water boiling over onto the burner.

"Funny," Sam said. "I really haven't found anything I wouldn't do."

--

Dean woke without relief, not even a moment's reprieve, and this time things were worse. He wasn't in the basement anymore. The lights from overhead seared into his skull even through the shade of his half-closed eyelashes. He shivered uncontrollably, his entire body a rolling throb against the steady, solid resistance of the butcher block countertop. An attempt to roll to the side and find a softer position found him tied down, thin hemp scraping a channel in the flesh around his arms and legs.

"You need to hold still." Sam's voice behind was stilted and cold, and from the stench of alcohol in the air, Dean suspected not sober.

"What are you doing?"

"Fixing you."

"I don't want to be fixed."

"What do you want?"

He didn't know. Somewhere in all the months of being unliving and undead, he'd lost sight of his life's purpose, the drive he had when there was a road ahead of him and not just pain and snow and more of the same. For a second the chill of the countertop muted the throbbing between his temples, and on an exhale, he said, "Give me back my necklace."

He heard the knife stop halfway out of its sheath, a stutter in Sam's breath.

"No. It's not over yet."

Right. Things were just getting good.

Dean screamed when the knife bit into his flesh, high on his back above his shoulder blades. He continued to scream as it sliced deep alongside his spinal column.

"Yeah, it sucks, I know," Sam hissed. "I'd give you something to bite down on, but I need you to tell me when it works. I don't want to take too much."

Dean didn't get to ask, 'too much what?' Instead, his mouth flooded with something metallic and sharp like ozone after a thunderstorm, and his entire body bowed back against his bonds.

"Almost," snap, snap, snap, "almost."

Dean recognized the sickening sound of his muscles and sinews giving way. The jolt when the blade cut into his spinal column was worse than getting electrocuted. The scream became a long, drawn out grunt, eyes rolling back in his head.

Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you and all we've been through!

"Tell me when..."

Let me out. Let me out. Let me out. Let me out.

Snap.

And then it was over. No hot. No cold. No pain, just numb all over, and he collapsed onto the counter, panting. And for once, Smelly Cat was playing his song.

Let me out. Let me out. Let me out. Let me out.

"Dean..." He got the impression it wasn't the first time Sam called his name, still he couldn't bring himself to answer. "Dean... How do you feel?"

"It doesn't hurt anymore."

It's Hell when you're around.

"Good."

It was anything but.

It's Hell when you're around.

But at least he could think again. So, he did.

--

When his hands quit shaking enough for him to hold the needle in his grip, he meticulously etched into his skin carving out memorized symbols and shapes, long intricate lines, calculated intersections and angles. With his forefinger and thumb he pushed on the chamber of ink chasing black biro ink out to the tip, ready to drop and seep into his rune.

"Dude, do'u fall in?"

He worked at night, sometimes during the day, anywhere he could catch a break on his own, even while in the bathroom, rarely made time for conversation.

"Two more minutes, and I'm coming in after you."

Morning, noon and night. Until Sam inevitably interrupted. Little brothers and Antichrists were both just huge pains in his ass.

He carved, bled and suffered avoiding Sam's radar, but it would be all worth it in the end.

The end was closing in.

 

Life settled after that. It wasn't hard to be easy-going when he didn't feel anything at all. He didn't need to hear Sam's drawn-out explanation about how his new nervous system took over all his necessary functions, just didn't receive tactile input. Explaining it didn't make it okay.

The air was still acrid with the stench of burned flesh. At least his nose still worked. His tongue was as useless as his fingertips, except for the part where he could still use it to swallow and talk. Not that he had much worthwhile to say.

"Why did you do that?" Sam scowled at him, wrapping Dean's burned hands over the charred, circular patterns of the stove burner.

"Why not?"

"I don't want you to."

"Why not?"

"Because I said so." Sam finished the bandage and stalked away. Only Cas remained, his head pillowed on Dean's foot.

--

"You need to eat."

"I'm not hungry."

"You are. You just don't feel it."

"It doesn't taste good."

"Everyone's a critic."

The third time Dean dropped his fork, unable to grasp it with his bandaged hands, Sam shoveled it full of macaroni and cheese and pressed it to his lips hard enough to clank against Dean's front teeth. "Eat."

Dean did.

--
 
Sam always used the straight edge. He couldn't be sure, but Dean seemed to like the way the light played off it. "Chin up," he instructed, and Dean obeyed, eyes darting to the long razor for only a second before they fixed on the far wall once more.

Sam didn't mind the extra work. Sure, Dean had lost some of his fine motor skills, the 'feel' that let him handle delicate operations. Sure, he didn't look much like Dean anymore, what with his hair coming in black now, along with his fingernails, the white eyes, all the tattoos and scars. But it was still Dean. And there were worse things Sam could be doing. He didn't mind the distraction.

"Why do you bother?"

Sam didn't even mind that it didn't even sound like Dean anymore.

Sam smirked, scraping the razor down Dean's throat like a sculptor. He had his "cleanliness is next to godliness" retort prepared, but instead he said, "It's the only way I know it's still you under there."

"When can I have my necklace back?"

The razor slipped, long dark line of black trickling down and welling along Dean's collarbone.

"I lost it."

"Oh."

Sam finished the shave and left the haircut for another day. Before he stalked out to the porch, he offered, "Need a smoke?"

"Nope."

See? Dean was still contrary as ever. Just like old times.

Only not.

He didn't even notice the sweat beading on his brow until he stepped outside and was blinded by the cloud of his own breath.

"Huh."

--

Sam took crooked appraisal of the glop on his plate and thought the Boy King, as he'd been called, probably deserved better cuisine. But he hadn't been packing for extravagance when he planned this whole thing all those months ago. Funny, all that time in hiding, extrapolating and planning, toying with his power-- a little manipulation here, pestilence there, the world his canvas to paint however he chose-- he'd never really felt like a king. A king had a kingdom, an army, a castle, a moat. He had... whatever was on hand, his influence kept tightly leashed by coming into it all a little too late to matter. No kingdom. No army. No throne.

But now he had Dean, and sure, things had started out... rocky, but he was better now. He was. They were better, if just a little codependent. Hell, that was nothing new, anyway. Things were a lot easier now that Dean had evened out. Sure, there were some complications from rewiring his whole nervous system. Dean stapled himself to the porch the night before while stringing Christmas lights. Christmas lights. Yeah, Sam had to make some allowances. To be honest, he was more surprised Carson had lights in the attic than he was that Dean wanted to put them up. But Dean had a degloved thumb held together with fishing line to remind them both that people with no sense of touch shouldn't be allowed to play with sharp instruments, or fire, or ice, acid, base, or anything absorbed through the skin.

No big deal, though. Sam was getting pretty good at spotting the potential dangers. Speaking of which... "Here, let me get that." Seriously, Sam didn't know what he was thinking putting out the glass tumblers when they had perfectly good plastic cups in the kitchen. He made sure Dean had a good grip on the glass of water before pushing his chair away from the table and going to the cupboard to get one. Better safe than sorry. Sooner or later, they'd run out of fishing line.

The pot of chipped beef he'd made with dried beef and powdered milk looked almost as appetizing as the runny instant potatoes he'd made to pour it over. Definitely not fit for a king, but it seemed to be Dean's favorite, judging by the noises Dean was making behind him. Lucky for him, Sam had accidentally made it twice this week. He had more important things to worry about than meal planning.

He picked the blue plastic tumbler out of the dish rack, leaving the pink one, because Dean hated it, and watched Dean eat as he made his way back to the table. Dinner conversation was pretty much dead these days, since Dean ate with his face practically in his plate to counteract his tendency to drop his fork halfway to his mouth. And Sam wondered when Dean started following every bite with a sip of water.

But Dean wasn't in pain anymore. There was no more writhing and screaming, no more teeth biting through his tongue in an effort to not beg for Sam to fix it. Because Sam fixed it. This was better. It was. Even that little gurgling noise Dean made around his food... was making...

So, there were still some bugs to work out.

A horse. My kingdom for a horse...

"Dude, you're making a mess," Sam said, reaching for a dishcloth as water trickled toward the edge of the table. "How did you manage to spill?"

The plastic cup and the rag both hit the floor when Dean looked up from his plate, water trickling out the corner of his mouth. Dean dropped his fork and wiped at his chin with the back of his sleeve, eyes ducking away like a puppy that just messed on the floor. A second later, liquid sprayed out his nose, and he gagged, spitting a mouthful of chewed beef and potatoes onto the table.

Without hesitating, Sam clapped Dean on the back between his shoulder blades until Dean raised an arm, abruptly shrugging him off. When next he looked up, his eyes were watering, too, but for other reasons, red-rimmed and sullen. No accusation. They were way beyond that, but Sam didn't need Dean to accuse him in order to feel like a failure.

"Um, nothing to worry about." For the first time in forever, Sam didn't have words, stuttering and stammering like an idiot. "Doc... Doc said there could be some p-paralysis of smooth muscle. A little dysphagia."

"English," Dean growled, his voice wrecked, hands pressed flat against the table on both sides of his plate, chin tucked tight against his chest like he was fighting the worst case of heartburn in history.

"Difficulty swallowing."

"And it's just showing up now?"

"Could be scar tissue forming, disrupting the nerves we left in place. Doc said it could happen."

"And did," Dean paused like he was expecting a belch that never came. "Did Doc say how I'm supposed to eat?"

"No, but," Sam stooped to pick up the cup and cloth from the floor, "but we can try upping your dose of the serum. That might clear up the scarring. And until then..." he rubbed his hands on the leg of his jeans before standing. "We can try a liquid diet. If we blend it up enough, take small sips, maybe gravity..." Suddenly, he erupted, a flurry of action, spinning around and fumbling through the cupboards for the blender. He didn't look at Dean as he picked up his own plate off the table and added it to the blender in small doses with intermittent splashes of the powdered milk from the pitcher on the counter. "See? Nothing to it. A little bit of chipped beef. Milk. Mashed potatoes. Milk. Mix it all up. Exact same thing you were already eating."

He reached for the tumbler, wondering if there might be straws around somewhere, remembered the blue cup had been on the floor and grabbed the pink one instead. "Sorry, gotta use the pink cup. I'll do the dishes later..." He froze in his tracks, almost dropping the glass for the second time when he turned back to the table to find Dean watching him, red-rimmed eyes narrowed to slits, fork in hand, and his jaw working around a bite of food. As Sam watched, he shoveled another heaping bite in behind the first, clenched his teeth over the fork as he dragged it out slowly. "No. Don't... Dean! Spit it out."

Dean swallowed. His eyes closed the rest of the way, and time stuttered to a halt, the both of them waiting for the other cosmic shoe to drop. For a second, it seemed like they'd dodged a bullet.

They really had no right to hope for that.

A convulsion rolled through Dean's abdomen and up through his chest, but instead of gagging and purging the bolus from his throat, Sam watched as Dean locked his jaw down around it, swallowed again, and again, his Adam's apple jumping. Sam leapt forward and slammed the cup down on the table, shaking the whole thing hard enough that Dean jumped.

"Spit it out!"

Sam took him by the shoulders and shook. "I said spit, damn you!"

Dean's head fell back fast enough as almost to hit Sam in the nose, and his eyes flew open, gleaming but set and cold. Accusing.

Sam watched his brother's face go from drawn and pale to bright red before he arched off the chair and kicked out, falling to the floor as foam bubbled out of his nose and flecked over his cheeks. His chest heaved once, stopped short just halfway open, and his stomach roiled, jump, jump, jumping as his diaphragm tried to expand against the blockage. Another convulsion, and the foam turned to bright yellow.

The whole time, Dean's eyes remained fixed on Sam, nothing panicked or desperate, just acceptance, the world's biggest, 'told you so,' written on the plain of his forehead.

There was no good reason for Sam to panic or whatever it was that made him drag Dean off the floor and against his chest. No reason to try the Heimlich maneuver considering death really had no power anymore, but he did. He tried it. Again, and again until he heard a rib snap and Dean's head lolled back on his shoulder, dead, white eyes fixed on the ceiling.

Just another day in paradise.

There was even less reason for Sam to leap to his feet, dragging a sleeve over his eyes and sniffing. He didn't do that emo crap. Not anymore. But his hands wouldn't stop shaking while he paced around the corpse, no matter how deep he shoved them into his pockets, and finally he stomped out onto the porch, breath coming in gasps.

He yanked open the refrigerator door without unhooking the bungee cord holding it closed, completely ignoring when it snapped and recoiled against him like a kick to the gut. Doc's cataract covered eyes fixed blankly on him, mouth working in that ridiculous mimicry of speech that Sam used to find hilarious.

"Why can't I FIX HIM?!"

The head just spun around on its hook to face the back of the icebox, and Sam slammed the door. Then, because his hands were still shaking, he pounded dents into the metal, then kicked it, "Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" before sliding down to the porch. Growling in frustration he smacked his head back against the metal for good measure, almost hard enough to make himself see stars.

"Newsflash, sonny boy. You're the Antichrist. Destruction is your M.O."

Sam yanked the headset out of his ear and flung it across the porch, stood again with a lurch.

He shrugged his shirt on straight, smoothed out the legs of his jeans, then squared up his shoulders. "Maybe so," he mumbled. "But I'm also a stubborn son of a bitch. And I don't hear any fat lady singing."

--

When Dean opened his eyes the next day, Sam was in a much better mood. He caught a glimpse of movement on the table, saw Dean's eyes flutter open and called over to him. "Morning sunshine. Breakfast in ten."

Dean groaned, but Sam hardly heard it, pouring milk and raw eggs into the blender. "Hear that? It's bacon. I dug some out of the freezer just for you." He picked up the frying pan and poured the contents, grease and all, into the blender. "Did you know this thing has a puree setting? I tried it while you were... indisposed. Put a whole fish in there. Came out pudding. Amazing what technology can do these days."

He poured the contents into a beaker and grabbed a large syringe, drawing the brown glop up into it by pulling back on the plunger slowly. "Gotta go slow. Don't wanna get too much air in it."

Turning around, he found Dean doing the familiar 'taking inventory pat down of his whole body. It didn't take him long to find the bandage on his stomach just below his ribcage on the left side. "Wh..." Cough. "What...?" Cough.

"Don't try to talk. Stomach acid has a pretty harsh effect on vocal chords. It'll take awhile for those to heal up." He strolled across the room, syringe in hand, poked at the bandage with a satisfied quirk of his head. "Some of my best work. I missed my calling, I think. So should've been a surgeon." He looked into Dean's eyes. "It's a stoma. Little window into your stomach." He raised his eyebrows and shoved the syringe into the port attached to the stoma, ignoring the way Dean grunted and tried to curl in on himself. "Breakfast time. Eat up. You keep that down, I'm gonna see how that blender handles M&M's." He emptied the syringe and stalked away, didn't check on Dean again for the rest of the morning.

--

Dean poked at the hole on his abdomen, 'window into his stomach', he felt…nothing. Zilch, zip, nada, not even a sting; it wasn't hot or cold, rough or smooth, just bare emptiness and yet it felt unbearable.

He tried to focus on a pain that should have been but wasn't there. He took a shaky breath, pushed down his panic, trail of invisible tears and excepted that there truly were worse things than being dead, and this, what he had become, what Sam represented, topped that list hands down.

He retched uncontrollably, then tried his best to remember if there'd been any runes in the piece of skin Sam had removed.

--

Dean insisted on being able to feed himself. So Sam let him, and he didn't. Feed himself that is.

Sam figured it out when Dean stopped needing help in the bathroom. By then he'd already lost weight. Though Cas was looking a little fatter.

--

The only time Dean moved out of his chair by the window was to sit on the porch and wait for Cas to do his business. He kept a pellet rifle at his side and kept the other wolves at bay with it.

Sam wanted to tell him he was only pissing them off, but it seemed to give Dean a purpose outside of carving himself to pieces. Sam couldn't help being just a little jealous of the wolf, but envy being one of the seven deadly sins, he figured it was probably in his nature. For some reason, Dean had a knack for bringing out the worst in Sam.

Almost like that was his plan.

Somehow, Sam had all the power in the world, except in Dean's world.

But he could get it back.

Maybe.

Probably.

Not.

--January, 2014-Cabin

"Merry Christmas." It was weeks past Christmas, probably closer to Dean's birthday, but lately Dean had been working like he had a deadline, and Sam didn't want him to know if he was reaching it. Dean seemed set on leaving, eyes fixed inward or away, unfocused like he was listening for something Sam couldn't hear. And Sam... wasn't sure he'd try to stop him from going another time. Each time he did, he got less back.

He'd stopped being angry sometime after he locked Dean in the cellar. It was just gone, squeezed out one failure at a time.

Dean couldn't get the paper started, so Sam poked a hole in it for him, watched with something warm in his stomach as Dean peeled back the paper.

"You said you lost it."

"I'm the Antichrist. I lied." He was expecting some kind of reaction--any kind -- waited for the 'bitch' that never came, and choked on the 'jerk' he had planned in retort. He could only watch Dean roll the amulet around in his hand for a few minutes before he choked back his (hurt) pride and tried to force the issue. "So, what did you want it for?"

Dean nearly dropped the gift when he shuddered and started scratching a clear patch of skin above his hipbone, suddenly realizing he wasn't working, but Cas caught it on his nose, and Dean smiled half a smile as he pushed the thong back over the wolf's neck. "I don't remember."

"Oh." Sam didn't have any eggnog, but a pint of Jim Beam in the stoma, and Dean was out for the count. Sam tucked him in and pulled the sheet all the way up over his head. He looked like less of a corpse that way.

--

"So, there's no way to reverse it? No detox?"

"No, and if there was, he'd be nothing but a puddle of goo."

"Because he's so much more than that, now." It was the first time since the gift exchange that Sam had managed convincing sarcasm. Too bad it was based in fear and not the cocksure pride he was used to. That was gone along with the anger.

"Sarcasm. I can appreciate it. But you can't say I didn't warn you."

Sam shrugged. "True enough. Though I wouldn't be gloating if I was you. I can still stake you out on the lawn and let the wolves have you."

"In all honesty, I don't think I'd mind."

The beer bubbled up in his throat, in a whirlpool behind his soft palate, and it was warm from having been swallowed. He choked, breath clouding the bottle around his fingers. He was left holding the glass with a handprint in it, not unlike the scar on Dean's shoulder, one a sign of life, one a reminder of death, and neither where it belonged. "I think I know what you mean."

--

Dean was thinner, gaunt in places he'd only used to be pale, kinda like the wolves in the yard, hanging around just to be near him even though the last available prey had scampered away weeks ago. Thing was, Sam couldn't be entirely sure he wasn't the cause. Didn't know for sure he'd remembered to feed Dean often enough, stopped counting the number of times Dean wouldn't stop cutting at himself long enough to eat, and Sam gave up trying. The bangs hanging over his dark-lined eyes were evidence enough Sam had forgotten a few other things as well. Cleanliness, godliness... he wasn't really feeling either.

And it wasn't because he didn't care. Just cared too much. He wasn't trying to kill his brother. He just wasn't trying very hard to keep him alive anymore. What was the point if he couldn't fix him?

--

A day before his birthday, Dean stopped cutting, turned his face to the east, and waited.

--

When it happened, it was nothing Sam did. The time had long gone when he could bring himself to kill. It was more what he didn't do.

One minute Dean was sitting on the porch the pellet rifle cocked in his lap while Cas cross-tracked the dooryard. The next, the gun was empty on the porch, just like Dean's chair, and the wolves in the yard had blood on their snouts, long shreds of cannibalized meat in their teeth.

Dean waded out into them, calling for Cas, more emotion strangled in his voice than he'd had for months. Sam leapt from the porch, his every intention to call off the pack, long strides through snow, driven by a swift-pounding heart in his chest. Then Dean fell without a scream, and Sam's mouth snapped shut over the command.

Without a scream. Not a whimper. Only growls and wet, tearing.

They wouldn't touch him, the wolves. Living or dead, he was leader of their pack. But they were hungry... and Dean wasn't.

"Leave it." He was surprised how hard it was to say it, not surprised that they listened, backing away slowly, tails tucked between their legs.

Dean's eyes were fixed on the sky as Sam approached, one of his femoral arteries lacerated by the looks of the pool spreading beneath him. His gaze shifted in small increments until it settled on Sam, opaque and yet hollow, windows to what soul was left.

"Why did you stop them?"

"Why didn't you scream?"

They stared each other down neither finding the right answer.

"Why did you come here, Dean?"

"I made a promise."

Sam knew the one he meant. He swallowed and dropped to his knees, half set on slinging Dean over his shoulder and bringing him back inside to wait for the serum to kick in, get on with their lives. But he couldn't do it. All powerful, the scales balanced over his back, and he couldn't find the strength to stand under the weight of his brother. And there wasn't that much of him left.

Maybe he was staggering under the absence of his brother. He didn't know. What he knew was, he didn't use to be warm, and now he was. He didn't use to care, and now he did. He didn't use to understand what it was like to powerless, and now he was.

He once rode a pale horse. Now the horse rode him, but he still held the reins.

"Dean..." He resisted the urge to touch, hands hovering and then drawing away. "What do you want?"

"Tired, Sam."

Sam's breath stuttered in, a little gurgle on the tail end of it like it encountered a flood on the way down. Sam didn't think he remembered how to cry. "I know." His hands shaking, he glanced around him at the wolves waiting their turn. "I could... I could go."

"No. You do it."

"Dean, I ... can't." The irony wasn't lost on him, but he wasn't in a place to be amused by it. So what if he could smite the world with a sweep of his hand? This was so not the same thing.

"Please."

Sam nodded. Something dripped off his nose and plunked to the snow, warm enough to punch a hole through the hard crust, perfectly round. Pulling off a glove, he slid his hand under Dean's hair and down the back of his skull to the place where it met his neck. He knew it wouldn't finish Dean off, but all he had to do was turn off the lights. The wolves would make sure he didn't wake up again. He averted eyes for a second and when he looked back, found Dean's necklace spread in a loop in front of him, dangling from a bloody, shaking hand. "The key," Dean huffed.

Sam didn't understand but ducked his head and let it slide over.

"Thank you," he whispered.

Dean stared back, waiting. "Open the door, Sammy."

Sam fought not to look away, didn't want Dean to feel alone in the last minute. With a hard swallow, he whispered, "Happy Birthday," and ended it. One sharp crack, and it was over.

He expected it to hurt, had gotten used to the care creeping in around the edges of the hole in his heart. He hadn't expected to be thrown backwards into the snow, the force of a sledgehammer blow to his chest, or the searing white light screaming through him like an X-ray. Dean was barely limp in his arms before his body came apart, exploding in a shower of sparks, only the runes intact as they floated into the sky like bits of burning paper out of a fire. They didn't flutter apart. Instead, they linked together, glowing brighter with each connection, swirled around Sam and up into the sky. The snow blasted away from him in a wall of white, clearing all the way to the ground in a vortex. Every last ounce of breath rushed out of him and into the vacuum, chasing the white light at the end.

Then the light went out, and so did he.

--

"I knew you'd come through."

"I don't understand."

"C'mon, Cas. The messages under the door. The spell to draw out the poison. The sacrifice. And then showing up out there in the woods to save me. You've gotta be the hardest working guardian angel in Heaven."

"Dean, I went to the woods to save you, but the rest... I failed. What happened on that mountain was an act of God, not me."

"So, you finally met the Big Guy? Way to go."

"I have not... met the Big Guy. I only know His work when I see it."

"But why? Why would He save me? And Sam?"

"Because you believed it was possible."

"Huh."

"Indeed."

"Y'know what else I believe?"

"What?"

"I believe He's not finished yet."

"I believe you could be right."

--Spring, 2014
Pink flowers. When Sam opened his eyes and found Dean sitting beside him with a mug of hot coffee in a field of pink flowers, he knew they were not in Heaven. Dean's Heaven would be nothing but winding roads and greasy hamburgers. Morning glories were Mother Nature's idea of fun. He didn't have time to say as much before Dean shoved the mug of coffee toward him.

"Better drink up. We slept through winter, so unless you got spare tires for the Mule, it's going to be a long walk." He turned to Sam, hazel eyes glistening and clear.

"I take it you're not tired anymore?"

"Not even a little."

"And we're not going to talk about this, are we?"

"Nope."

"Well, then," Sam stood, not a little surprised when his joints cracked and popped all the way to upright. Gesturing down the mountain with a sweeping wave of his arms. "Our chariot awaits."

When "Wayward Son" started blaring from inside the cabin, he paused. "I don't think I'm quite back to normal yet," he speculated with a smirk.

"What makes you say that?"

Nodding toward the house, Sam said, "I still kinda wanna kill that cat."

Dean huffed. "That makes two of us, but if we did, who would keep Doc company?"

This time Sam stopped so abruptly Dean almost knocked into him. Coffee was spilled, and since Sam was pretty sure it was coffee from Heaven, that was probably a sin. "Shit. Doc." With a squeamish shrug he asked, "D'you think we should...?"

"Nah. It's spring. Lotta hungry bears in these parts."

"And wolves," Sam chuckled.

"Those, too."

When they were a quarter mile away, hands deep in their pockets and morning glories crushed underfoot, Sam said, "I know we're not supposed to talk about it, but... Do you still have the piercings? Because there was one..." He squirmed a little, hands pushed down into his pockets as far as they would go.

"Don't ask..."

"...don't tell."

"Amen."

The End

AN: don't forget to check out the art for this over at lj. It's amazing! Thanks so much for reading. You made it, you deserve a medal!