A horse's hooves clacked against the brick beneath their feet, bouncing off the walls in an echo. The tunnel was dark, but a light at the end grew brighter with every step they took. Dean held the left lead, and Castiel the right. Gabriel, dressed in his silks, followed in behind. He was not on the horse, and his helmet was absent from his head. As they passed through the veil of light the silence exploded into cheers.
The three men stayed together as they walked the bay without saddle or bridle across the track and onto the grass towards the podium. They came to a halt just at the base of the podium, several men in suits smiling down at them as track assistants switched places and took hold of the horse so they could join the suits.
The newscaster, Rich, from NBC that was at every leg of the Crown brought his microphone to his lips and turned towards the cameras. "One year ago we witnessed history in the making right here at Belmont. It was, however, not the celebratory moment we were all hoping for as Lazarus Rising broke down in front of a crowd of over 104,000. Men, women, and children all over the country wept as Lazarus was taken off the field in an ambulance, her fate uncertain. Today, Lazarus stands before us, finally ready to receive her award. The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, is here to present the trophy."
"Rich, we have waited a year to reach this moment," Cuomo began. "What happened last year was tragic, but Lazarus has always been a fighter, and she proved to us she could defeat the greatest of enemies. It is with my extreme pleasure, that I present owner Castiel Novak with the Belmont Stakes trophy." There was a loud roar of applause as Castiel accepted the trophy. "But there is a greater reason we are here today. It had not been done in 35 years, but this filly was able to rise up to the challenge. I am incredibly pleased to be able to present to owner Castiel, trainer Dean Winchester, and jockey Gabriel Novak, the Triple Crown." Dean took the three-sided vase and marveled at the engravings monumenting every jewel of the crown she had won.
"Castiel, how does it feel to finally be standing here a year later?" Rich asked.
Castiel gave a small laugh, "Impossible. It wasn't as smooth as a recovery as we had hoped, and there were times towards the end of the year we thought we might lose her, but she proved to be the great horse we always thought she was. The fact that she won that battle means more to me than the crown, honestly. We are so lucky to be able to have her in our lives today."
"Gabriel," Rich moved on, "You were actually thrown from Lazarus when she was injured. What was going through your mind?"
"Terror," Gabriel responded. "Just pure, complete, terror. There was no indication, no warning, that she was injured. I didn't even care about myself. It wasn't until after we had already made it back to Kentucky that I noticed my hand was swelling and that I had broken my wrist when I landed on it in the fall. I didn't care about myself, I just wanted Lazarus to be ok."
"Well, we can all rest easy that she is indeed ok. Dean, do you ever think that you will ever have another horse like Lazarus?"
Dean laughed, "Absolutely not. You know, she's no Secretariat, but she's an incredible horse in her own right, and I don't think there can be another like her. There will never be anyone else who has accomplished the things that she has done, and It's been a privilege to be the one that got her there. I have a great horse in Purgatory this year, but he couldn't follow up his Derby win in the Preakness. I think he'll give a great showing today, but he's definitely no Lazarus."
"There is indeed no other Lazarus Rising. We congratulate you all on your victory, and for Lazarus Rising's recovery," Rich smiled.
Dean, Castiel, and Gabriel descended the stairs of the podium with trophies in hand and gathered around Lazarus. Cameras flashed wildly to document the moment for all time.
The photo hung framed in the National Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs, New York.
"Dean..." Castiel moaned under the covers, his breaths coming hot and heavy as Dean's hands roamed over his skin.
Dean ground his hips down against the man beneath him and groaned in pleasure, his mouth on Castiel's in heated passion.
"GUYS! GUYS!" The doors to the bedroom swung open as Gabriel leapt in.
"Jesus christ!" Dean hissed as he flung the covers off his head. "What the hell, Gabe?"
"Ew, were you guys having sex?" Gabriel's face scrunched up in disgust.
"Uh, yeah, so if you could please leave," Dean hissed.
"Well think of Missouri naked to lower the flag, Dean-o, and put on some pants! Lazarus is about to drop her foal!"
Castiel and Dean flung out of bed grasping at the thrown articles of clothing around the room, scrambling to get them on fast enough. They were still buttoning shirts and zipping up jeans when they got to the barn. Lazarus was on the ground, Charlie supporting the mare's head and Bobby helping pull at the foal as the horse pushed with pained grunts.
"Easy girl," Bobby soothed, "You're almost there. Just a little bit more, now. Come on, one more push!" Lazarus pawed at the ground as she stretched her head and gave a mighty groan as Bobby pulled and the foal was on the ground. He instantly grabbed for the towels, "You two idjits mind helping?"
Dean and Cas both sprung into action to help clean off the newborn. Dean eagerly worked at the hind end to see what they had been given. He smiled at the result. "It's a filly."
Castiel grabbed Dean's hand as the filly shook its head and attempted to stand. Her knees wobbled violently and she was only up right for a second before she was plunging back into the hay causing the audience to laugh. Castiel leaned his head against Dean's shoulder as they watched her try again. "She's beautiful."
"Yeah," Dean nodded as he leaned against his lover. "What are you going to call her?"
Castiel thought about it, before inhaling a confidence breath and responding, "Anna's Grace."