Title: Second Gear
Author: Lucky Gun
Summary: When it hasn't been your day, your week, your month, or even your year...sometimes good things happen to good people. My ending for Supernatural. - A birthday present for my beta SpenChester.
A/N: SpenChester: It's that time again and all I can think of is the fact that you're still my Shawn, my Dean, my Gibbs, and of course, my Deluca. You're amazing, girl. Consider yourself friend zoned for life.
He had a vague recollection of a flash of pain and a final reach for what had always been so elusive. He figured that was how he found himself on the ground, the world dimming around him, the flare of heat and ache from his stomach too familiar and telling. He blinked a few times in a vain effort to get the fog out of his vision and winced at what he could see. Just a few feet from him was his brother, his amazing, pain in the ass little brother, bleeding out from a similarly gaping gut wound. The solid slate floor beneath them was covered with ash and blood, most of the latter theirs.
Wincing and gasping, Dean reflexively grabbed his chest as his heart stuttered, distant realization cooling the fiery agony as his hands barely responded. Across from him, tears pricking at his own eyes, his brother was experiencing the same.
He was dying. Sam was dying.
Was it worth it?
"Did it work?" Sam gasped out, eyes straying for a moment before locking again on Dean's face.
For his part, the older hunter tried to give a reassuring smile, but the blood dripping from the corner of his lips dulled the effect.
"Yeah," he whispered, knowing to the marrow of his bones that it was true. "Yeah, we did it, Sammy."
Some of the tension in Sam's face melted as he relaxed against the hard floor, refusing to fight but refusing to yield, at least not yet.
"We knew it had to be this way, so why does this still suck so bad?" Sam muttered, a wry grin tugging at the corners of his eyes, shy dimples making a rare appearance.
Dean chuckled slightly before gagging on the pain that rose up through his gullet.
"Dying always sucks, Sam. Haven't you figured that one out yet?" Dean answered softly, groaning as he rolled off his shoulder to lay on his back, his head still tilted in his brother's direction.
The altar behind them was soaked in the crimson of their lifeblood, books and tablets and talismans stained with their destiny. It had all led up to this moment, this one final lunge towards the goal that had been dangling in front of them their entire lives, all of their existence weaving inexorably to their deaths in exchange for peace. With a prayer, a promise, and a pair of blessed knives, the hunters begotten of hunters and bred to do nothing but live for others had performed the oldest, most sacred ritual.
By offering their immortal souls and those of seventy five other hunters who had volunteered their own lives for the cause, they had defeated evil forever. With their deaths, all the doorways of hell would be closed, the righteous granted access to all the joys and wonderment of heaven, the unrighteous given a silent but peaceful eternity in a world of silver glass.
Still, Sam had a point; it did suck.
Hissing a bit of air that was becoming more precious by the second and eager to eke out a bit more from this life, Dean glanced back at the altar behind them, narrowing his eyes as he tried to focus his vision.
"There aren't supposed to be angels singing or halos over our heads or anything, right?" he asked quietly, a bit of his trademark sarcasm coming through easily.
Judging from Sam's choked laugh, the younger hunter found the imagery humorous as well.
"Only if your horns were holding it up, Dean," Sam answered gently, his voice fading slightly.
Realigning his sight, Dean stared at his brother, refusing to look at the wound that was steadily pumping blood. It had been done by his own hand, the one in his gut courtesy of his brother's blade, a part of the ritual he'd loathed then and doubly loathed now. But so long as it was successful, it was worth it. Those blades had bathed in the willing life of seventy seven hunters, all dead by Winchester strikes per ancient angelic orders. They'd followed the rules to the point of the pen, the usually caustic and rough edges of Dean's authority issues smoothing under the weight of the promise.
And it had worked. The second the knives had tasted their blood, the fifty or so demons screaming around them had turned to ash, vaporizing in an instant, the usual smell of sulfur strangely absent. For some reason, it almost made Dean homesick.
His mind was wandering more as there was less blood in his body than out of it, and unerringly, the hunter knew his time was up. Whether he was aimed for the higher heights or the shallow ends of the other side, he didn't know. But it was worth it. For everyone they'd saved, everyone they'd failed, everyone they'd lost and been lost to, it was worth it.
"Sammy?" Dean breathed, forcing his arm to move towards his brother. Sam startled a bit, his eyes widening from their dazed stare, and he automatically reached out as he answered airily, "Dean?"
His soaked fingers traced bare skin and the older hunter grabbed his brother's wrist as tight as he could, part of him warming even in the icy grip of death as he felt the gesture returned. Staring at their warrior's handshake, the last thing he'd know in this world, Dean felt a sort of peace he'd never imagined flow through him.
"I'm proud of you, Sammy. Always have been," he firmly whispered, uncaring as a drop of water raced from the side of his eye towards his hair that was slicked with sweat and caked with blood. Sam smiled faintly, his grip tightening slightly on the other hunter's arm, and he responded just as definitively, "Same goes, brother. Forever."
Dean's head rolled a bit, his darkening vision giving him a quick view of the grand cathedral's main hall before it rolled away.
His heart beat once.
And not again.
"So what do you think? Do you think Sammy's ready to toss around a football?"
For some reason, Dean found himself giggling and shaking his head as he drawled, "No, daddy!"
Staring into his father's warm eyes, relishing the feel of strong arms around him, Dean ignored the strange tug in his heart that screamed wrong long enough to return the hold. Then John turned and Dean could see his baby brother laying peacefully in his crib, cooing to himself and waving his hands at nothing.
"Goodnight, Sammy," John said softly as he turned off the light and walked out of the room, bouncing Dean playfully on his hip as he walked down the hall to the toddler's room.
Still plagued with a painful sense of unease, four-going-on-five year old Dean held his tongue just long enough to get tucked in by his father before he couldn't hold it in anymore.
"Daddy, where do bad dreams come from?" he asked in a rush, tugging his airplane covers up around his neck, his stuffed bear digging into his side a bit; he ignored it for a moment.
Frowning slightly, John sat on the edge of Dean's bed and patted him on the arm.
"Why do you ask, buddy? Been having nightmares?" he asked quietly, eyes dark with concern.
Dean shrugged slightly, chewing on the inside of his lip for a second before he answered, "Just feel like I woke up from one and I'm tangled in the covers."
Smiling gently, John responded, "I get that feeling sometimes. Usually when mommy's mad at me."
Giggling again, this time at the thought of his tough and strong Marine father cowering from mommy's wooden spoon, Dean smiled as his father added, "And it always passes, Dean. Always will. But if you ever can't shake it, you just let me or mommy know, and we'll make the bad feeling go away. I hear tickling is a great cure for that." Pausing as though a thought just struck him, John gave his son a stern but playful glare as he asked, "Now, you wouldn't be needing tickling this late at night, would you?"
Shaking his head wildly, Dean laughed out loud when John abruptly attacked him, tickling his ribs and under his chin relentlessly until the toddler was breathless. Grinning widely, John patted his oldest child on the head and gave him a soft goodnight with a warning on bedbugs. Dean watched him go with simple adoration, the smile on his face slipping when the door shut. The feeling returned, increasingly angry cats stalking up and down his spine for a half hour, and he frowned as he tried tickling himself without success.
"Boo," he whispered to himself, sitting up in bed and glaring at the wall.
He was tired and the feeling wouldn't let him sleep. He wondered how Sammy would sleep feeling like this and decided to find out. Slipping out of his bed and creeping silently down the main hall, biting his lip to keep from laughing at the snoring already pouring from his parents' room, Dean crept into his brother's room. The light in the corner illuminated the area gently, the faint ticking of a clock soothing to his ears. His baby brother, eyes heavy with tiredness, watched him come with a smile on his face. Sammy started cooing a bit and Dean shushed him as he climbed over the crib.
"Quiet, Sammy. If mom and dad find me in here I'm in trouble," he whispered as he snuggled down next to the infant.
Blowing a soft raspberry, Sammy seemed to consider the words for a moment before yawning widely. Following his example, Dean found the strange feeling fading fast, disappearing entirely when he rolled over and hugged his brother to him. Sammy gave a contented sigh as he started dozing off, and Dean smiled slightly as he realized he knew something his dad didn't.
His brother was a much better cure than tickling.
"I hear you got yourself a sweet rebuild this week," a voice came across the deck.
Dean turned, grinning widely even though the monkey suit he was wearing was a hundred times more uncomfortable than his usual jeans, tee shirt, and coveralls. Sam smiled just a easily as he handed his brother a beer, the top already off. Raising the drink in a thankful salute, Dean took a sip before he nodded.
"Yeah, a beautiful piece of work. It's an '88 Firebird, all original. No one's screwed with the engine or anything. Interior's a mess but that's an easy fix," he explained before taking another swig.
Sam pulled at the bow tie of his suit while he asked, "You're just gonna make dad do it, aren't you?"
Eyebrows dancing suggestively, Dean just took another drink of beer.
"Hey, easy, man! You've gotta train for that kind of heavy lifting. Besides, your new sister-in-law is requesting a dance soon with her favorite brother-in-law," Sam clucked, and Dean set the beer down on the edge of the deck they were standing on, the music from the wedding reception inside the clubhouse filtering out to them faintly.
"If I'm her only brother-in-law, that sort of takes the compliment out of that, Sammy. But Jess is entitled to one, I guess. Carmen won't mind. After all, why would I want a lawyer's wife when I can be 'the premier vehicle repair expert in the entire Midwest' who just so happens to be engaged to a model?" Dean grinned cheekily as he asked.
Rolling his eyes in mock annoyance, Sam sighed, "Ever since you got that accolade and dad got that job reviewing cars for that magazine, you two have been impossible to live with. I don't know how Carmen and mom handle it."
There was an opening for at least twelve patented Dean comebacks there, but the older of the two was strangely silent. His eyes were narrowed as he looked out across the immaculately clean parking lot, his face tense.
"Dean? You okay?" Sam asked, trying to follow his brother's line of sight.
But Dean wasn't listening. All his focus was on the oddly familiar feeling of unease in his gut, a phantom pain that he hadn't felt for twenty five years. That, and the silently staring man on the golf course wearing a heavy trench coat in seventy degree weather. Without realizing what he was doing, Dean was gone, down the stairs and across the parking lot before he could really even think. He heard his brother following behind him but without his usual protestations; maybe he felt it too, that otherworldly sense of wrongness.
The man was still there when they reached the green a minute later, his face calm and his eyes sparkling in the sunlight. Dean and Sam stopped several feet from him, confusion obvious.
"Dean, Sam, it's good to see you. In the flesh, I mean," the man intoned, his voice low but smooth.
Blinking back a strange rush of thoughts that seemed unusually dark for him, Dean clung to one word that shone out from all the others.
The smile that split the man's face was worth the initial confusion.
Sam was quiet for a second as he glanced around, taking in things with a different sense of understanding, before he said, "This is...what we've got isn't what we're supposed to have."
Shaking his head immediately, Castiel responded, "No, this is exactly what you're supposed to have, Sam. This is always what you were supposed to have."
Dean felt his mouth go dry as the feeling faded behind the raw holy power in the angel's voice.
"A gift from the Lord for the most dedicated of his children is the life they always deserved and earned a thousand times over. It shall be the antithesis of the life you were otherwise forced to live: instead of pain, chaos, and sacrifice, there will be love, stability, and hope. And when this life is over, I'll be waiting for you both to lead you home, where you belong."
For just a moment, there was a solid flash of clarity, memory and reality crashing together, and the enormity of their reward made Sam stumble, Dean barely coming out of his own stupor quick enough to grab him. Looking over his brother, a flood of emotion creasing every aspect of his soul, he felt his eyes burn.
"So we won. It's over."
It wasn't a question.
Cas gave them a moment to catch their breath before he took a step forward, grabbing them by the shoulders, his gaze moving from Sam to Dean.
"You won't remember once I leave, as one lifetime of carrying those memories was too much to ask the first time. But I need you to understand the truth of this: you are still Dean and Sam Winchester, the same who destroyed the evil of the world by sacrificing yourselves and those loyal to the cause. This debt is only overshadowed in history by the blood of the lamb. We are ever indebted. You will have a good and long life. You will not want for that which you have need. You will know only love, joy, and harmony. And when others in your life are ready to leave for heaven, you will remember enough to ease the pain of the loss, to know that I will be waiting there for the honor of the escort. And when the time comes for you to join them, there will be no fear, no pain. Just the peace you deserve," Castiel quietly said, his eyes glowing from within with the ardent belief of his words.
Dean ducked his head for a moment, unsteady on his feet, the weight of the life he'd survived weighing on him enough to stagger forward. He found his head on Castiel's shoulder, the vessel's arm around his back, Sam in an identical position beside him.
It was almost too much.
It almost hurt him to ask, but he had to know.
So when Castiel chuckled in a very understanding manner and held him tighter, he felt himself relax and the anvil around his neck disappeared.
They stayed that way for a few minutes, relishing the peace that was washing upon their souls like a calm tide coming upon the shore. Then, simply blinking, they found themselves back on the deck, Dean's beer still ice cold and missing just a few sips. There was an echo of a thought on the back of a well of warm love.
I am proud to call you both my brothers. Forever.
Dean smiled slightly, the glow of approval radiating in his soul, and he turned and smiled at Sam, his little brother's same goofy grin matching his. The edge of the memory was fading with each beat of their hearts, all but the ease and contentment burning away like mist in the sun. Still, Sam and Dean stayed quiet and contemplative on the deck until the moment had passed and life fell back in step.
"Boys, you'd better get in here! They're about to do either the Electric Slide or the Safety Dance and Bobby, Ellen, and Jo are about to take on your father in a tug of war with Jess's garter belt. The preacher and DJ are placing bets."
The soft sound of Mary Winchester's voice echoed out of the clubhouse and Dean smirked, already reaching for his wallet as he grabbed his beer and started into the building.
"I've got fifty bucks says dad wins."
Snorting indignantly, Sam countered, "A hundred on the women. Don't ever underestimate Ellen."
A gruff but warm voice snapped, "Stop betting and start pulling, boys! Heave to already!"
Dean and Sam disappeared into the building, the sounds of laughter and raucous discussion spilling out into the fragrant spring air. The entire world seemed to heave a sigh of relief, the planes of reality filling out in all the right ways. Far above, looking down on the scene with a soft and gentle smile, Castiel watched over the Winchesters, just like he'd promised.
And made a bet or two of his own.
End Second Gear