A/N: Hugs to LdyAnne for finding typos. Always a doll, Doll. Please do not bash in any form. Kthanxbai.
Tear Down the House
There was blood and fire and pain and it was all he knew and, in an instant, it all became a remnant. He was screaming until he wasn't anymore. Hell, Lucifer, Death, being destroyed and destroying with his own hand. It was in him, but it wasn't happening to and by him anymore. It lingered, an experience he could not shake. Horror he could not quell. In a blink those horrible feelings, too, were gone. He was left with nothing. For wild, frantic seconds he was lost and he was adrift in a void. Something had scraped all his insides out and forgotten to put them back. He was a hollow man waiting to be filled, a vessel drained. He felt like he was going to be sick, but there was nothing, nothing.
A touch on his forearm, a blast of air. The sound of rushing water and a child's laughter and the beat of wings at the same time. A slight pop, like thin glass and wire breaking. Darkness that wasn't absolute. The smell of mown grass, the faint hum of power lines. He sought direction, from all of the things around him he didn't recognize, and the one thing he finally, immediately did.
He saw her gleaming even though there was no light. She always did that, some kind of ever present miracle on wheels. His home and safe haven whether he liked it or not. The Impala. He knew intrinsically the Impala was no longer a home, but also that he did not have to be afraid of being without the stability she gave him for so many years. He began to understand everything and that hollow began to fill. Not completely. He was not sure it ever would. He wasn't sure what he was supposed to be filled with, now; what he understood so plainly was not coming from him.
"Anything. That's the beauty of it. You can fill it with anything."
He turned, only his head and only a fraction. Somewhere in the slight numb of his now-existence, surprise registered. The man next to him smiled, the expression so loaded he didn't know what to take from it. Some things were too vast to be intuited.
"Oh it's you," he said, shock all but gone.
"It's me." That inscrutable smile remained. "Always was."
"Why are we here?"
The man merely jutted his chin. Once the message was imparted, he seemed to disappear but not disappear, as if he wasn't there and had never been there and always was there.
And he saw what he was meant to see. It was wonderful and terrible. He couldn't look away, though he wanted to because he felt like an interloper even from a distance. There were feelings inside the half-emptiness of his self he couldn't decipher as good or bad, right or wrong. He wondered if that was who he was going to be now and forevermore, never certain of the air he breathed and ground upon which he stood.
Before, Dean would have known he was there; he would have sensed it and looked up and seen and reacted in that bigger than life way that was so Dean. He knew that was true the way he understood so many things, and he knew why Dean didn't know he was there now. He was okay with that. It was what he wanted. He took comfort in knowing these things, if he didn't know so much else.
From his place in the shadows, he could almost hear the clink of silverware on plates, the soft conversation that was television-perfect, he could almost smell and taste the food. It was right, it was good. He knew. As he watched the family dinner play out in front of him, he could not help but remember his good times with Jess and hoped for Dean's sake Lisa and Ben were real in a way Jessica never had been for him.
After everything, the very least Dean deserved was honest happiness.
He had wanted that for Dean for a long time, and he was so very glad that his brother was keeping his promise so that it could happen. He knew, firsthand, that it was no easy feat. He knew, too, Dean didn't end up here at Lisa's without fighting instinct. Given time, that natural instinct might change entirely, from hunting and killing and Sam to having a catch with his son or fixing things around the house or going to a nine-to-five every day. Dean could do all the things a normal family man was supposed to do, give Ben the father he never had. Dean had the chance now to do all the things John Winchester had been unable to.
His gut ached with the happy sad, bittersweet, full and yet empty still. Everything all at once, and it felt new, like he had never had these kinds of feelings before. In some ways, he supposed he hadn't. His life had never been his own, not really. The only thing that ever had been real was Dean, and that was all he could not have anymore. He wouldn't do what he wanted to do for himself. He wanted to knock on that door, feel Dean hug him and punch him and yell at him until his ears rang. Oh he did.
"But what is it you truly want?" the man said, just a voice and nearly inaudible, God at his shoulder.
He waited for the devil to come and whisper in his ear as well. He expected the dichotomy and did not get it. The freedom of that threw him for a moment. But he knew. He had known what he would do the second he'd seen where he was. It wasn't a struggle. He didn't have to fight with himself or anyone else. The question was easy to answer.
"I want Dean to be happy." He watched Dean pass a bowl of peas to Ben.
Dean hated peas and all vegetables himself, but he chuckled when Ben shook his head and scooped a spoonful onto the boy's plate with a smile. Then he scooped a spoon onto his own plate, began eating them as if they were his favorite thing in the world.
"He is happy," he whispered.
"Looks good on him," the man said, fully corporeal again.
It did. He smiled, or tried to. He wasn't sure he knew how yet, the mix of emotions too strong to allow his own happiness to be the most powerful of them. Happiness was for Dean. He didn't know how to achieve that, and now he was uncertain that even those moments he thought he had been happy were true. He didn't know what it would take, going forward.
"That is up to you," the man said. "You have that choice now. You earned the right to find what makes you happy. More than earned it, actually."
He blinked. Even this was new, this feeling that maybe he hadn't screwed up for once.
"You never screwed up. You did what you were supposed to, always." The man touched his arm again. There was no flutter of wings or rapid change of scenery. Only warmth and love and something cool pressed into his hand. "I have to say, I can't remember many prouder moments than the one of you, and Dean, on that battlefield at the end of it all. You saved the world. You did that."
The matter-of-fact affirmation was too much for him to comprehend. Before he could do or say anything, the man was gone. For good this time, he thought, except still not actually gone. He was physically alone in the middle of the street, but that feeling of security surrounded him. It always had, he realized, and always would. He watched Dean and Lisa and Ben. He didn't know how long. Only minutes.
He glanced at the Impala, resisted the urge to go to her one last time. She was not his home, but not because he was locked out. He chose to not inflict Dean with pain when he had only just found some peace. He chose to tear down his house and rebuild. He could fill the walls how he saw fit, for the first time ever.
He remembered the coolness in his hand, now warming with his touch. He uncurled his fingers and raised his hand. In his palm, the amulet he had given Dean when he was eight. It didn't glow or burn or do any magical things, but it was as much his home as the Impala. He knew he couldn't keep it and still do what he had to do.
With silence and stealth that also seemed new, almost supernatural, he crept to the front door of Lisa's, Dean's now as well, house. From a closer vantage point, he really could hear the tink of silverware on plates, soft conversation, and he smelled the pot roast and peas. His hand shook as he hung the amulet on the doorknob. It swung, and then settled.
In the morning Dean would find the pendant. He imagined Dean might believe it came from Castiel, or perhaps even God himself. He wouldn't know why, and that was okay. It was better. Dean would never think the amulet came from his brother as a final farewell and given in the same spirit as it had the first time.
Because Sam Winchester was dead and he would stay dead. He walked into the night, until he wasn't there, never had been and always would be.