5.22 Swan Song tag – Yet another one… *sigh*… apologies. And while this and The Awakening are again almost commentaries on the episode, rest assured I am working on an actual story that will start posting in the next few days. A story of how Dean isn't coping very well with normal, or maybe it's that he can't cope with losing his brother. I need to get it posted before the new season starts and they go in a totally different direction. That one's a bit angsty but hopefully still full of Dean's resiliency and strength. I do love all the flavors of Dean. Thanks for reading, take care, B.J.

XXX

"Hell is empty and all the devils are here." - William Shakespeare

Benediction

In war you often suffer from a dearth of easy choices or good options. You don't have the freedom to simply walk away, not if your cause is righteous and just. Not if this is a fight worth fighting. War is hell and sometimes you're forced to do things you abhor, contemplate actions that go against every instinct you possess, but in war you do what is necessary. You don't think about being a hero, at least most heroes don't. You think about doing what's right. You think about the ones you love and keeping them safe. You think about the greater good and saving as many people as you can.

When the scope of what you do affects millions…billions, then the difficult decisions become even more impossible, the weight unbearable, the responsibility crushing, even for a Winchester. The fact that Sam and Dean stayed their course, kept fighting, kept trying, well, that came as a natural progression. They'd been making hard choices all their lives, so nothing but the expanse of the challenge and the severity of the cost changed there. Maybe that's why they were ultimately chosen for this task, the simple fact that they had the mettle to keep fighting and not give in.

Since the Devil escaped at their hands, they felt it was their job to put him back, but the truth is they would have assumed that responsibility regardless. It's who they are and what they do…what they've always done. Their entire existence was based on saving people, stopping evil, doing their part to make the world a safer place. When the peril was the greatest, when the outcome the most critical, they were the men who stood up and did the job, whatever it took, regardless of the personal cost and with no expectation of reward or thanks. They did it because they couldn't not do it. Because they believed…in each other and in their cause. They couldn't walk away. They could never close their eyes to the encroaching darkness, not when they had the knowledge and skill to defeat it.

Oh, they had their dark moments, times when it all seemed to be too much, but somehow they always found their way back to the fight. When one or the other fell back, pummeled by the immense hopelessness of their situation, battered by the impossibility of success in the face of certain doom, buried under a mountain of doubt that no amount of positive thinking could offset, the other somehow held firm, picking up the slack until the one stumbling and unsure again found solid ground. When the need arose, they balanced each other, watched each others' backs and shared that massive load.

The Apocalypse was as epic and crucial as any battle could get, and yet somehow within all the elaborate manipulations of angels and devils, and the extreme ramifications from the Winchesters' decisions, their struggles remained intensely personal, almost introspective. In spite of compelling arguments to soldier-up and play their roles, they always knew their rightful course and fiercely defended their right to choose. They intrinsically knew saying "Yes" was all kinds of wrong. They stood their ground against formidable foes and refused to be pawns, vessels…angel condoms in Dean's unique way of expressing his contempt for their supposed destinies.

For Sam and Dean the war against evil had been a constant, a fight they had waged their entire lives. The threat of the Apocalypse only ratcheted up the intensity of the battle and the magnitude of the outcome.

For both brothers it was in their nature to sacrifice themselves for others, and most especially their family. On a personal level it was their family, on a global scale it was the family of man. Sacrifice for a Winchester was just another facet of the job. They routinely risked their lives on every hunt they embarked on, knowing full well what the final outcome on that last hunt would ultimately be. They accepted how their lives would end, knew there were no fairytale endings, no heavenly rewards, not for men such as themselves. And they were all right with that.

For Dean the hardest thing one could ever ask of him would be to stand aside and watch his brother sacrifice himself. To know that Sam, the one he'd always sworn to protect, was not only going to die but was doomed to an eternity in Hell, forever trapped in the cage with the Devil himself.

Dean would rather march into Hell himself, take back his place on the rack and suffer through endless centuries of torture, before he'd idly stand by and do nothing. For a hero it is easier to be the one to die, harder to be the one burying a loved one. But this time he wasn't allowed to make that choice, this time Sam made his own choice.

For Dean it took every ounce of control, all his determination focused on the task before him, and still, it was an unbearable struggle, an unconscionable choice. His heart losing that epic battle as his mind forced him through the motions. His shattered voice telling Sam he had to go, act fast before Lucifer took full control, betraying his own desires by willing his brother to leap into the pit.

Ultimately it was Sam's choice to sacrifice himself for the greater good. And saving the whole damn planet, well, that presented one hell of a cost-benefit analysis, one life…one soul in exchange for billions. It was a no-brainer.

Still, it was almost impossible for Dean to let go. That went against every fiber of his being.

After his meeting with Death, after they had the needed Horsemen rings to open up Lucifer's cage and then slam it closed again, Bobby had nailed that fear when he'd pointedly asked him, "What are you afraid of, losing or losing your brother?" The answer was clear, in his heart and on his stricken face.

His only real fear in life was losing his brother.

Now it was happening, guaranteed and unstoppable. The only question remaining was in what manner? Would Sam be in control of his destiny or merely a pawn caught in the crosshairs of destiny?

Dean was helpless to save him.

Their true destinies were determined the moment Sam stepped forward and said, "Yes." Their desperate, last hope plan irrevocably placed into motion. No back-up plan, no escape, only the threat of failure able to derail that runaway train.

Dean didn't have a choice here.

As he'd told Sam, it wasn't about him letting Sam do this; it wasn't his place to let his brother do anything. He'd learned that lesson, finally. The hardest part wasn't allowing Sam to do this, not even merely standing by and watching, but actually facilitating that leap into the cage. And Dean knew that was precisely what he was doing; it was what he was hoping for as the Impala rolled into that cemetery.

It was his choice to be there.

Dean was in a no-win situation, but he was never helpless. He held firm to who he was and what he believed in as he stared down both Lucifer and Michael and made his final stand. He could never leave Sam to die alone, not under any circumstance. He needed Sam to know he was there, to feel him beside him, to know he still had faith in him.

And if he failed, if Sam was unable to wrestle back control, then at least he would be there beside him for the end. Sam wasn't going to die alone, not on his watch. It was the least he could do for his brother and it was all he could do for himself.

Under the weight of Lucifer's supercilious arrogance and haughty superiority, it felt like they had already lost. Bending to the pressures of reality, Bobby and Cas had accepted the inevitable and all but given up. Dean wasn't ready to give up, not after all they'd been through. He was the one who'd witnessed Sam disappear from his own body, buried deep under Lucifer's control and that was unacceptable. If Sam was to die by Michael's hand, if half the planet was to be incinerated in the wake of their epic battle, then Dean was going to be there, for Sam.

As each blow landed and his mind absorbed the thunderous punch, unconsciousness threatened and he found it hard to hold on. As one eye swelled shut and the other fought to focus, the only thing keeping him conscious was his love for his brother. He had brazenly intruded into Michael and Lucifer's pissing contest and he was determined to be there to the very end, as he had been for each new beginning.

Dean Winchester took each blow, his voice raspy, growing hoarse as he repeated his new mantra, "Sam, I'm not going to leave you. I'm not going to leave you." Floundering hands reached out to grasp at his brother, their bond his only weapon, his last hope as he tried to penetrate Lucifer's hold. As his face swelled and bled he refused to give up on his brother, his heart racing with everything he'd ever wanted for Sam and fought to give him.

He was rewarded with a glimmer of recognition in his brother's eyes and he knew Sam was there.

The beating stopped as Sam hesitated, his raised fist loosening while puzzlement flickered across his face as he took in the sight of his battered brother, coming back to himself as he reflected on their past and faced his future. He gasped as he wrestled back control, simultaneously assuring Dean that everything was going to be okay as searching eyes silently asked for his big brother's final blessing. Their eyes met and every emotion, fear and courage, love and pride, flowed through that brotherly bond, one final moment of solidarity before the coming end.

For an instant Dean was relieved, so glad to have Sam back by his side and then his heart stalled, grinding to a halt as the truth filtered through.

This meant the end was imminent.

An end that would forever separate them.

Time stilled, all thought suspended as his heart seized and emotions raced, air whooshing out of his lungs in one last desperate panic as he crumbled to the ground in a heap. Looking up, Dean couldn't take his eyes off his brother. Sam looked magnificent standing there on the brink, a warrior, a hero, a man doing what only he could do… a brother saying goodbye. They held that connection for as long as possible, one brother assuring the other that it was okay, that he could do this, the other silently offering all his love and support, knowing it was beyond his means to do more. Simply there for his brother to help fortify him in his final moments.

Spreading his arms wide, Sam's face was peaceful in his certainty. His last chance to stop this sacrifice came when Michael grabbed him, but he fought off the reprieve, tumbling backwards into the gaping hole and fulfilling his solemn promise.

It seemed to happen in slow motion and yet it was over too soon. One minute there, the next buried as the hole sealed itself, returning the ground to how it was; no evidence remaining of the significance of what just happened.

Dean was sprawled on the ground, battered and bloody, his eyes now closed to the sight. With determination worthy of a Winchester he crawled to his brothers' final resting place and knelt by their grave, shoulders hunched over, leaning precariously to one side, unable to move from that spot. He closed his eyes to the anguish, desperately trying to remember the past, holding on to Sam for as long as he could. Never wanting to let go.

Dean knelt at the grave of his brothers for a long time. A ragged wooden cross mirroring the dejected tilt of his body, both worn down by life and too many deaths. Both now nothing more than a scarred relic of better days, a remembrance of sacrifice and absolution.

He heard a slight noise and looked up, barely able to distinguish the sight; Cas was standing over him, back from the dead, eyes solemn with concern. The angel's hand reached out and two fingers touched his forehead in a silent benediction, the laying on of hands that vanquished the bruising and the blood, healing all physical evidence of the beating he'd received at the hand of Lucifer.

Cas was tender in his words, comforting as best he could manage. The outcast from heaven again restored to full power, once more a servant of God and doing his bidding.

Still fighting, Dean retreated from his words of comfort, angry and bitter at the injustice in how it had ended for Sam.

Dean didn't want his grace, didn't need God's mercy, not for him. If God or angels were to offer any sanctimonious reprieves then let it be for Sam…let them pull Sam from Lucifer's cage to prove their godliness. Until then, Dean didn't have need of angels or God or their offered prayers.

Not until Sam received his heavenly reward.

The End

bjxmas

August 2010

All standard disclaimers apply.

Thanks for reading, take care, B.J.