A/N 1: if anyone can explain to me the transition between the two final scenes of episode 5.10, I'd really appreciate it.
A/N 2: I am still chronically and utterly behind on responding to reviews. So I just want to say how much I appreciate everyone who reviews, favorites, alerts, or just reads my stories. An author is only as good as her readers.
The picture burned.
Sam watched the faces burn away – Ellen's and Jo's, Castiel's and Bobby's, Dean's and his own. He knew he'd never see them again. None of them. Those people they were just a few days ago would never exist again. He'd never see any of them again, not in a picture, not in the flesh. Probably not even in memory.
Nobody said anything. When the picture and the past were nothing but ashes, the three men each went their own way. Bobby went down the hallway and Sam heard his bedroom door open and close. Dean walked out into the kitchen. Sam set himself down on the arm of the couch. It was late, hours past midnight. Bed should be his next and only target right now, but he couldn't make himself choose that. It seemed so wrong to sleep, to rest at all.
Ellen and Jo were dead.
When were other people going to stop dying for them?
He heard the sink turn on in the kitchen. Maybe Dean was making coffee. Maybe he should have some too, keep himself from sleeping. He stood up and took a step or two in that direction. The kitchen was dark except for the light over the sink. Dean was standing there, but he wasn't making coffee.
He was washing shot glasses.
Sam started to turn away. He had to turn away. Blood, death, demons and hell hounds, friends' intestines laid open to the air – he could take all that and not flinch. But Dean washing the shot glasses that Ellen and Jo and Castiel had used that night, that last night, was too much. He was washing them and rinsing them and putting them in the strainer to dry and Sam had to turn away or give in to the anguish that was crushing him from the inside out.
As he turned, one of the shot glasses dropped out of Dean's hand and hit the floor with a dull whack and rolled in a circle towards his boot. Dean bent down to pick it up but as he straightened up, it fell again. Instead of reaching for it, he leaned on his hands on the edge of the sink and choked on a breath that sounded a lot like a sob.
But then he took a deep breath and snagged the shot glass again and washed it and put it in the strainer to dry.
And sobbed again.
Sam thought he should leave, give Dean some privacy. He knew Dean hated showing his grief, even to Sam, or especially to Sam. He probably didn't even know Sam was watching him. So Sam turned back to the library.
And his eyes fell on the gray and fragile ashes of that photograph.
He was down to the last two people he didn't want to lose in this world, and one of them was washing shot glasses in a dark kitchen. Sam wasn't going to walk away from him.
He measured his steps into the kitchen, up to the sink and next to Dean. He didn't know what to do, he wasn't sure what to say. Dean didn't look at him, only shoved a dish towel at him. Sam took it and started drying the shot glasses, stacking them into the cupboard over the strainer.
Dean sniffed every once in awhile, that was the only outward sign now of his grief. He finished the shot glasses and wiped out the sink and stood there a minute or two longer, staring down at the scuffed and stained porcelain, until Sam was finished drying and stacking, and he took the dishtowel back and dropped it crumpled on the counter next to the sink. Then he turned and started to walk out of the kitchen.
Sam took a step to follow him and stopped again when Dean stopped. He was staring at the table, staring at where their friends had sat and quickened the last night of their lives with whiskey and nerve and they would never see them again. The bottle of whiskey still stood there, two shot glasses turned upside down to remember more fallen friends. More family lost. This time there hadn't even been any bodies to burn, bury, or just say goodbye to.
Dean took in a deep breath that shuddered back out of him and he squeezed his eyes shut like he had the Mother of All Headaches, then he opened his eyes with a sharp inhalation and a hand dragged over his face.
That just about said it all.
Suddenly, he reached out, turned the glasses right side up, opened the whiskey and dumped a messy shot in each. He picked them up and shoved one at Sam. He wouldn't meet Sam's eyes, he just clinked glasses a little too hard and tossed his back. Sam saluted the table with his glass and drank it down.
They set the glasses back down on the table. Then Dean started walking again, and Sam followed him.