Author's notes: That finale hollowed me right out. This is me emoting. Blame Kripke.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, least of all Supernatural. Unfortunately.
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He'd never imagined that it would be like this.
This is humanity, Cas. Welcome to it. And that? What you're feeling? That look on your face? That's fear. And with the flick of a finger, that's blood and matter, and that's where Cas used to be standing, where he'd still be if he were still alive, and fuck, did that just happen? And now the feeling that used to be shock is fading away and digging deeper all at once, and that's loss.
Except it isn't, not really, because after the echo of gunshots have jumped ship, fled the scene, gotten right the fuck out of that bone yard, Dean catches Bobby's eyes and he knows, they both know, and that. That's loss. And it's terrible and sudden and then it's buried, blow after blow turning him inside out. There's pain, and desperation, and a little acceptance that he's failed, really full-on failed, but he'll keep trying anyway, because even if he's failed Sam he won't leave Sam, he won't fail him that way. And maybe there's a vague anticipation for an ending, a final and real conclusion to this curse of a life. Maybe just a little, but it's backing off now with a little flutter of something, something that feels almost like recognition, like maybe Sam's really in there somewhere, and maybe there's hope too.
And there it is, there he is, Dean can see it in his eyes as the hand stops, shaking under its own desperate momentum and Sam's back at the helm now, and maybe they didn't fail, maybe he didn't fail. But maybe he did, because Sam's driving this bus now, and Sam knows what he has to do, and Dean knows too, but he so desperately doesn't want him to do it, doesn't want to know what's coming. But he does know, and when the ground opens up, Dean can only sit and see, really see, because this is it, and after this he won't see his brother anymore. Not ever, never again, and Dean can't let this be the end, but it is and he knows that it is.
Not the end of the world. Sam is making sure of that. Sam, who locks his eyes on Dean and nods, and Dean can't nod back, can't move, can't bear it, because the world may still be here, but not his world, because his world is hovering over the abyss, closer to the edge than Dean should ever have allowed, but it's not his choice and he can't do anything but sit there. The ache is growing now, he can feel it in his fingertips, and he wonders if this is how Sam felt at the creak of a door and "Sic 'em, boys," when everything ended the first time. And maybe it was, but Dean thinks that maybe Sam had been a little bit lucky, because he'd watched as Dean had been ripped to pieces, shredded, and he had known Dean was going to Hell, but he didn't know Hell. And Dean came back, was brought back, and even then Sam didn't know Hell, because Dean wouldn't have it, couldn't explain if he wanted to, and maybe Sam thinks that he knows but he doesn't know.
But Dean knows Hell, and he knows where Sam is going, and the thought of it feels like the Hellhound all over again. Dean knows, will always always know, but he'd still take a swan-dive down the pit if it'd keep Sam here and safe and alive. But it can't be Dean, because it always had to be Sam, and all he can do is keep looking and seeing for as long as he can until there's no more Sam, not now or ever.
And Sam is looking too, and maybe seeing Dean, and Dean stops breathing because his brother, his job, his heart, his family, his Sammy, is terrified, more than he'd ever been, more than he ever deserved to be, and it hurts. But he is strong too, resolved, ready, and then I'msorryIloveyouGoodbye his eyes close and he's falling. And Dean sees him fall, sees the tangle of limbs follow him over, and somewhere in his brain he realizes that he's losing two brothers, but not really, because Adam was his brother and he didn't deserve this, but Sam, Sammy was his brother and his family. And maybe it wasn't too late, if he could just get up, and maybe he isn't gone because he can't be.
But Dean didn't move, and the ground closed up, and he leaned back against the Impala, and that. Loss doesn't even come close.
There was nothing, no cracks or ridges, not even a broken blade of grass to indicate what had happened here. And Dean had known, had always known that this was a bad plan, that to lose meant to lose Sam and to win meant to lose Sam and what kind of plan is that but he hadn't really known, had been woefully unprepared for this. He had known loneliness, he had, but now he was alone, so totally and utterly, and he'd give anything anything, his life, his soul, anything to not know this.
He couldn't stay here forever, but he couldn't stand, couldn't bear to lift his head from the ground that had swallowed his brother, and where would he go anyway. The world is still here, but Dean has nowhere in the world to go, except that he does because Sam made him promise, and Dean doesn't have Sam anymore but he has the promise that he made to him and he'll keep it. He'll keep it because all he knows how to do is protect Sam, and watch out for Sam, and love Sam, but Sam's gone, and he failed, but he'll live for that promise. Because he has to live for something.
But living will come later, because right now there is grief and hurt, and a pain so deep that Dean doesn't think he'll ever know anything else, not ever again. And Dean was wrong, had been so very wrong, because he had thought that maybe Famine was right, that he was dead inside, but he knows now, he knows. Dean is alive, so alive that it hurts, and if only he could be dead, inside and out, because anything would be better than this.
He hears a step behind him, soft but there, and maybe he should be ready to fight, but there's no fight left, and at least, at least, he's not alone anymore. And maybe, maybe…
"Cas? You're alive?" The words stumble from his lips, and there's that hand again, reaching for him, and Dean thinks that maybe Cas will shut off the lights and he'll be free for just a while, that maybe he'll fall into that peaceful, blessed darkness, and he thinks it but doesn't hope it because there's no hope, not anymore.
"I'm better than that," and a touch, and Dean waits but the lights stay on, and he knows that Cas has healed him, because he can see again. But the pain is still there, maybe a little bit worse, because maybe his broken face had been distracting him from his broken heart, and now there's nothing but that ache.
Cas healed him, but he didn't fix anything.