samwinchester

Whatever (A Dean/Cas story)

Castiel has been gone for a long time. Too long. Dean misses him, Sam knows he does, but Dean will never admit it. Dean Winchester does not miss people. He kills things, he saves victims, he looks after his little brother. There just isn’t room for missing people on that list. He’s just getting steadily thirstier for alcohol, that’s all. And if he disappears for hours at a time, comes back with bloody knuckles, well, Sam doesn’t ask and Dean doesn’t tell.

A few weeks after that idiotic bastard used the angel banishing sigil, a letter arrives in the mailbox. Dean and Sam haven’t given their address to anyone, since they’re kind of wanted criminals across the country, and they were fairly certain the house they were squatting in was way outside the grid. It’s addressed to Dean, but Sam leans over his shoulder as he sits at the dinner table and opens it. Both of them raise their eyebrows, almost at the same time, when they see the sender’s name. Castiel. Does he even know how the postal system works?


For Dean (and also Sam, since you are likely reading this with him),

I apologise for my prolonged absence. I was not entirely sure where the two of you ended up after my abrupt departure. I was forced to find my way out of four-hundred-mile-long underground tunnels without my transporting abilities, which was… unpleasant, to say the least. You may be pleased to know that I have discovered your whereabouts, and am currently headed there. Due to the protective sigils around your house, however, I cannot simply appear there. I will be walking during the day, and flying at night, so I should be there by tomorrow. I will be sorry to say goodbye to this aesthetic beach, however; there aren’t many that are shaped so subtly.

I will see you soon. I imprinted your general location on the mailman’s frontal lobe. Don’t worry, it will fade as soon as he finds his way back to town.

Castiel

Dean sits for a minute, too still, just staring at the letter. Sam glances warily between the chicken scratch on the page and his brother’s utterly expressionless face. Then Dean stands up, slowly balling up the letter in one hand. He walks as if his legs weigh about fifty pounds each. At the back door, he eases the screen door open, and just stares at the autumn leaves for a minute. His lip twitches, and he bursts into motion: the arm with the letter in it snaps back, tosses the letter-ball at least a hundred feet into the woods. Dean kicks violently at the door frame, muttering, “Cas, you fucking idiot. Why don’t you just stay away if you’re gonna be gone this long? Nobody cares about you. Fuckin’ baby in a goddamn trench coat.”

Sam almost puts a hand out to stop Dean, but he reconsiders. Dean never means what he says when he’s see-red angry. He needs to save face, even when he doesn’t, so Sam allows him that outburst. But after the bedroom door slams shut, Sam creeps outside and digs around in the huge piles of leaves, paws the damp, clinging things aside until he finds the letter. Tucking it in his coat pocket, he strolls back inside, smiling to himself.

~

Castiel hasn’t seen a sky this pretty since… well, close after the creation of the Earth itself. Then again, he hasn’t seen Earth from this angle before. Miles above the ground, wings beating steadily against the vibrant evening air. Walking made his feet itch, and all day he dreamt of spreading his wings and soaring through the sky.

So when the sun first touches the horizon, the animals of the city outskirts begin making their beautiful, natural music, and Castiel is far enough away from the city that no one will be out to see him, he allows himself a private smile, and slowly rises into the air. Once he’s ready to start moving, he lets out the breath he didn’t realise he had been holding. Glancing down as he flies, his eyes find and follow a newly formed, babbling brook running between lichen-ridden trees and darting around every scattered boulder. It’s a cheerful little thing, and Castiel almost waves at it. Then he remembers it’s inanimate. His face falls as he brings his eyes back to…

The Impala is cruising along the dusty road beneath him, keeping fairly good pace. Though that might be because the driver keeps poking his shaggy head out of the window to make sure Castiel is still there. Castiel doesn’t even notice that he’s smiling until his face muscles get tight and sore. Gradually, he descends, even as he moves forward. Sam sees this, and pulls over to the side of the road to wait for him.

~

Dean lies on his bed, face-down, stewing in his anger for maybe an hour. When he hears Sam starting up Baby, he scowls even harder. How dare his brother take his car without asking? Just another person standing against him. Who needs Sam? Who needs Cas? Who needs anyone else? Dean just needs Dean. And Baby. Sam better not so much as fucking scratch that car.

He sits up on his bed, folding his arms and grinding his teeth. Screw the both of them. He’s gonna go do… something. Without either one of them. He’ll come back to the two of them looking for him, all panicked and upset, and their faces will just light up when he comes back. Yeah. He’ll show them. He’ll make them pay for making him mad. And confused. Well, just Cas is making him confused. About regular people stuff. Even if Cas is an angel. Shut up.

Grabbing three beer bottles in one hand, Dean goes for a walk through the woods. As each bottle empties, he just tosses it into the leaves, where it’s swallowed up until the leaves decompose. Dean’s gait loosens with every pull of alcohol, and forest animals start running from him crashing through the underbrush. He may be just a bit delirious after the second bottle. He stumbles over a fallen limb, the hand he throws out landing on spongey lichen. For a second, he just scrunches his fingers, feeling it slip and slide under the pads. Then his spine straightens up, and his face composes. A little unsteady, he bows at the waist, one arm tucked under him, as if he were introducing himself at a party.

“‘Scuse me, did—hic!—didn’t see you there.” His voice, though slurred and blurred around the edges from the alcohol, sounded more proper than Dean Winchester has ever been or pretended to be.

He spends quite a long time weaving through the woods, feet crunching on the leaves when they aren’t slipping. He thinks about how many times Cas has gotten them out of trouble, has betrayed his own family to help them. He thinks about how much he and Sam owe Cas for all he’s done. That baby in a trenchcoat gave up everything for them, rebelled against Heaven and his own family, all because he got attached to Sam and Dean.

Well… Dean scowls at the leaves around his feet, leaning against a tree as he thinks. Cas always seemed to favour Dean, for whatever reason. Even after the angel got over the whole “Sam-isn’t-an-abomination” mentality, he only ever answered Dean’s prayers, he would stare at Dean as if wishing he could read thoughts. There definitely weren’t any tugs in Dean’s stomach when Cas acted like that around him. Definitely not.

Dean wipes his mouth, staggering back to the house. Sam should be back with the car by now, and he feels like sitting with his baby for a little while. It always clears his head to just sit and drink while perched on the hood of the Impala.

~

“It is good to see you again, Sam—” Cas is cut off by giant arms squishing him in a slightly overenthusiastic hug. Sam’s back is bent a little, his long hair tickling Cas’ neck. There’s an awkward moment where Cas doesn’t know what to do with his hands, so he just pats Sam’s back.

“God, Cas, Dean and I missed you so damn much. Where were you? Where’d you end up?” Sam finally pulls his huge weight off, leaving his hands on Cas’ shoulders. “Fill me in, man, I haven’t seen your mug in weeks!”

“I don’t have a mug, Sam. I don’t remember finding one where I was, at least.” Sam fights down the urge to laugh at Cas’ puzzled expression. “But when I found the way out of the mine shaft, it was somewhere tropical. A small town near Nassau, I believe.” Cas runs his palms down the sides of his coat, smoothing the wrinkles out. “It took quite an effort to get here, Sam. I’m very tired. Are we close to the house?”

Sam smiles; he knew Cas would want to come right home. “Well, there’s an extra bed back at our place. Our temporary place,” he amends, pulling open the passenger door. Cas slides in, barely managing to avoid hitting his head, and Sam strides around to fold into the driver’s seat. The car starts, swings around, and kicks up dust going back where it came from. “We’re about an hour out, so we’ve got a little drive ahead of us. That’s alright though, yeah?”

Cas’ lips twitch in a faint smile. “Yeah.”

~

Dean stumbles around the side of the house just in time to hear the front door slam shut. Good, Sam’s home. Now Dean can take some time to scrub his damn brain clean on his car. Though, now that he thinks about it, does he even want to get rid of these thoughts? Cas is sweet, and his host body… well, Dean would be outright lying if he said that Novak guy wasn’t a hot piece of ass. Cas is cute too, when he isn’t pissed at Dean for thinking about saying yes to Michael. The way Cas would tug on his sleeve, asking, “What do you use this for?” used to be Dean’s favourite thing, even if he did tease Cas a little for it.

Slumped against the still-warm hood of his baby, Dean downs the contents of his last bottle with three slow, wet swallows, then wipes his mouth and sighs. He wonders when the sun set; he’s shivering in the cooling evening air. Tugging his jacket tighter around himself, he licks his lips to get the last of the beer off. He stares into the middle distance and tries not to think about anything, but ends up on Cas anyway.

~

Cas had been quiet on the drive back to the house. That wasn’t surprising, though; he rarely spoke when he didn’t need to. Sam watched him out of the corner of his eye. Sam could remember the first time he ever laid eyes on Cas; the faith he’d had since he was a kid—no matter how hard his dad and brother unintentionally tried to squash it—had swelled almost painfully brightly when he saw the angel. It was a little bit of a damper to hear Castiel, the living, breathing incarnation of the Someone Else that Sam prayed to every night, call him an abomination. But Sam would like to think that, over the time Cas spent with the both of them, he’d sort of grown to like Sam. He’d certainly become attached to the scruffy man in a trenchcoat; if he didn’t know where Cas was, he was damn well going to ask.

Something about Cas brought a better person out of Sam. With Dean, Sam tried to be like the shining image of Baby Brother Sammy that Dean pretty clearly kept on a pedestal in his mind. Dean expected his little brother to be good, live his childhood out until it ran dry, and not ask questions about the Big Bad World. Sam stopped being Baby Brother Sammy around age twelve, when he saw first-hand one of the freaky-ass monsters his dad was hunting. (He found out later that a Shtriga had almost killed him even earlier, but Sam hadn’t remembered.) And when Dean wasn’t imprinting a pure-and-clean image on his brother, he was arguing with him, both over the dumbest shit and over life-changing issues.

But when Sam was with Cas, he didn’t have to pretend to be an innocent child. He could be himself, completely. And the way Cas trusted so firmly in his beliefs, the way he was willing to sacrifice himself for his cause, gave Sam thrills of hope. Hope that he could turn this wordless desire to cleanse the world of the stains he’d put there, he could turn this into a cause soldiers would defend along with him.

Sam shook his head and blinked back the moisture in his eyes. His inner tangents had to be reined in at some point. He glanced over at Cas, who was fiddling with the buttons on his coat with the concentration of a cranial surgeon. Sam chuckled to himself, shifting his hands on the wheel and gently pressing the accelerator just a little harder.

~

It takes Dean a good ten minutes to weave and swerve from the Impala’s side to the front door, jerk it open, and fall on the hardwood boards inside the door. He’s sure that if he wasn’t so out of his skull on whatever kind of fucking beer he just had, he’d be laughing his ass off at himself. But, as it is, he struggles to his elbows, then swings around to sitting position, and leans against the wall, head bent back far enough that it hurts to swallow. God, he’s messed up. Cas isn’t gay. He’s an angel, he has a mission, a goddamn job to do, and here’s Dean, wondering how to bring up the topic of “oh I think I may want to kiss you how do you feel about that.”

Dean’s really messed up. But he knew that already, and it doesn’t console him much. He squeezes his eyes shut until he sees stars erupt in his skull. Murmured voices in the kitchen have his eyes flying open again, listening as well as he can.

“I’m gonna go read in my room if you need anything, okay, Cas?”

The other voice is warm with affection, and Dean faintly wishes the voice could talk to him with that tone. “I am not an invalid, Sam. I will call for you if I need help.” Heavy footsteps clump down a hallway Dean can’t see, and then silence. The occasional flip of… newspaper pages turning? He’s curious, and shuffles forward on his knees until the kitchen comes into view.

First thing his eyes fall on is the clock, and Dean squints at it to see how long he’s been gone, before he remembers. He’d broken the thing a week ago in a particularly angry outburst; he’d punched the wall, and the poor clock, a cheerful-looking pig with the time keeper in its pot belly, had rolled off the shelf and shattered on the floor. Sam and Dean had cleaned up all the glass, but the damn thing had stopped working. They’d put new batteries in and everything, but it just stayed stuck on 2:55. In the morning, of course. That’s when Dean’s usually the crabbiest.

The next thing he sees is Cas, hair rumpled all to hell, wrapped in a blue-and-white-striped bathrobe about five sizes too big for him (probably Sam’s), sipping on steaming coffee and frowning at last week’s paper, as if scrutinising the print long enough would give him all the answers he wanted. He’s so damn cute, Dean’s heart climbs into his mouth and swells enough that he can barely even breathe. All he wants is to hug Cas from behind the chair, kiss his neck, and bury his nose in that fucking nest of hair.

And that’s when Cas looks straight up, locking eyes with Dean. If he could barely breathe before, there is no usable air in the whole house now. It’s only when Cas drops his eyes back to his paper that Dean makes a valiant effort to stand, held back not just by his extreme inebriation, but also because he’s just gotten the oxygen back in his lungs.

When Dean feels his foot slipping and his weight tilting back to the floor, a warm hand catches his elbow and helps him to the table, settling him into a chair. Dean blinks, watching Cas search the cupboards for a glass, then fill it with water from the tap. He pushes the glass to Dean, a look on his face that can only be described as tender. Dean is suddenly painfully thirsty, and he leaps on the offering, gulping messily. He watches Cas out of the corner of his eye, breathing through his nose so he could keep swallowing.

“You know, I was worried. You weren’t here when Sam and I arrived.” It’s a quiet admission, but Dean freezes, a little trickle of water snaking down his chin. “I thought, maybe something happened to you. But Sam, who is much wiser than you give him credit for, assured me that you would, eventually, come home.” Dean’s still staring, possibly struck dumb, that Cas was actively worried about him. Cas had asked Sam if he was okay. And Sam, optimistic little shit that he is, had told Cas that Dean always found his way back home. Although the rustic, overgrown house could barely be called home.

Dean sets the glass down. “Hey, uh… Cas?” The angel lifts his eyebrows. “I, well. When your letter came, I wasn’t… I didn’t like it very much that you were, y’know, AWOL. I guess I just…” Missed you, Dean wants to say. But all that happens is a gusty sigh, punching his chest in, and his head drops to his chest. Dammit. Why can’t he say anything around Cas?

It doesn’t matter, though, because he hears Cas’ chair scraping on the floor, and soft footsteps walking around to the back of Dean’s chair. Then warm arms wrap around his neck, lips pressing on Dean’s left ear. Then Cas just nuzzles into the juncture of Dean’s neck and shoulder, squeezing his hold on Dean tighter.

“I love you, Dean Winchester. Even if you are a bit obtuse at times.” Dean can’t help but smile, even if he was just insulted. He puts his hand up to Cas’ arms and closes his eyes, wishing they could stay like this forever; warm, safe, and happy. Dean, Cas, and Sam. That’d be Dean’s paradise.
  • Current Mood: apathetic apathetic
  • Current Music: jack johnson
samwinchester

Say Something Sweet to My Baby

Based off of this song (Say Something Sweet by Trout Fishing in America)

Warnings: Major Character Death, spoilers for All Hell Breaks Loose Part 2, future!Winchesters AU



Dean’s two years old and he’s hungry. He’s had to use the bathroom for the past twenty miles, too, and his naptime was spent watching minivans and sport cars flash by the windows. He wriggles around in his car seat, sniffling snot back into his nose, the back of his hand helping to clean his face.

“Mooom, where’s the gas?” Dean can’t say “station” yet, but Mary knows what he means. She glances in the rearview mirror to smile encouragingly at her son.

“Don’t worry, sweetie, we’re getting close to one.” She hits her blinker, slides to the left behind a blue Prius with a turtle sticker on the back windshield. Dean tries to focus on the turtle’s shell pattern instead of his uncomfortably full bladder.

He fails. Miserably.

Mooooom, I’m gonna pee my pants soon!” He’s starts buckling up his knees and cupping his pee-pee, in case his bladder gave out. Any minute now, he could start whimpering.

John turns around and gives Dean one of those looks, the kind that said, “You will sit and wait, or I will tan your hide.”

So Dean bites his lip, flexes his fingers once or twice, and blinks back tears.

Mary clears her throat, getting the attention of the whole car. “How about we sing your song, Deano? Would you like that, honey?” Dean nods energetically. He loves his song.

It was never clear whether Mary had made up the song herself or if she’d heard it somewhere else, but the way she sang it—light, yet as if she meant every word—seemed to say she’d made it hers. John smiles, looking out at the sparse trees fly by as he listens to Mary starting.

“Say somethin’ sweet to my baby…”

John adds his part almost on instinct: “Chocolate, custard, puddin’, and pie.”

“Say somethin’ sweet to my boy…”

“Chocolate, custard, puddin’, and pie.”

“His cryin’ is drivin’ me crazy, and I don’t wanna hear it anymore.”

“Hush, little baby, don’t you cry.”

As Mary sings, Dean tilts his head, paying far more attention to his mom’s accentuations and inflections than his need to relieve himself. Slowly, his knees straighten out, and he even starts leaning forward to hear better, eyes closed.

“When my baby’s smilin’, it lights up the town. When my baby’s cryin’, it turns me inside out.”

Both boys can hear the smile in Mary’s voice. She hits her blinker, turning into a gas station as she and John bring the song to an impromptu finish.

“Say somethin’ sweet to my baby.” “Chocolate, custard, puddin’, and pie.” “Say somethin’ sweet to my boy.” John turns around to give Dean a huge grin as he says rather than sings, “Chocolate, custard, puddin’, and pie.” Dean’s eyes flutter open when Mary puts the car in park.

A beaming smile dawns across his face. “I made it to the gas! I didn’t pee my pants! Thank you for my song, Mommy ‘n’ Dad.” He gives John a rough, one-arm hug from behind before hopping out to follow Mary into the station store. John shakes his head and smiles while he gets gas.

* * *

Dean’s three years old, and he’s got the flu. He’s stayed home from school the past two days, not moving from his mountain of pillows and blankets. He’s been crying silently for an hour now, hot tears sliding down hotter cheeks.

Mary comes running when she hears retching, and holds a bucket under Dean as he empties his stomach of the toast she’d made him eat that morning. Mary rubs Dean’s trembling back through every aftershock, and keeps going after Dean sits up again, scrubbing at his eyes with the back of his hand.

Dean’s eyes are drooping. So is his head. Mary runs her fingers through her baby’s buzz-short hair and starts singing quietly.

“Say somethin’ sweet to my baby…” No back-up this time, but it doesn’t matter.

“Say somethin’ sweet to my boy…” All that matters is that Mary is comforting Dean.

“His cryin’ is drivin’ me crazy…” Dean snuggles into Mary’s side. She can feel his blazing hot cheek through her shirt.

“And I don’t wanna hear it anymore…” He’s relaxing now, mouth falling open a little wider, slow breaths falling on Mary’s shirt, too.

“When my baby’s smilin’, it lights up the town… When my baby’s cryin’, it turns me inside out…” She rubs the pad of her thumb gently across Dean’s cheeks, where the tear streaks are still shining. Her heart twists; she doesn’t want her baby to be in pain, although she knows pain is just a part of life. Dean shouldn’t be hurting, he’s only three.

She holds Dean close until he wakes up in a coughing fit. Dean smiles through his tears up at his momma, muttering, “Your singing helped me sleep, Mommy.” Mary just smiles back and kisses her little boy on the top of his head.

He heals up quickly after that. He swears up-and-down it was because of the song.

* * *

Dean is four years old, and his five-month-old baby brother Sam is being really fussy. Mary told Dean it’s because Sam needed relief for his gums, but what it amounted to was quiet wailing pretty much 24/7. Mary and John took turns gently bouncing Sam and soothing his mouth with cold teethers. It’s Dean’s official job to run room-temperature teethers to the fridge and bring back a cool one. He’s really worried about his baby brother; what would happen if he kept crying… forever?

Then he gets an idea. Tugging on Mary’s sleeve, he gets up on tiptoes to whisper in her ear. Mary bites her lip, tears gathering as she smiles. “Of course, Dean, sweetie. Come here.” She scoops him up into the armchair, settling Sam into Dean’s arms. He keeps his arms rigid, like John told him to, and looks down at Sam’s teary face. He takes a deep breath and looks to Mary. She bends close to her boys and starts singing.

“Say somethin’ sweet to my baby…”

Dean sings the back-up, his well-meant but slightly off-pitch voice trying to match his mother’s. “Choc’late, custard, puddin’, and pie.”

“Say somethin’ sweet to my boy…”

“Choc’late, custard, puddin’, and pie.”

“His cryin’ is drivin’ me crazy, and I don’t wanna hear it anymore…”

“Hush little baby, don’t you cry.”

Sam slowly stops snuffling and stares up at his big brother, blinking as his eyes start unfocusing. A few babbling noises, and then Sam’s eyes droop. Dean holds Sam long after his baby brother has fallen asleep, memorising his face.

“Is he gonna be okay, Mommy?” Dean turns to Mary, concern etched into his very eye crinkles.

Mary smiles a little sadly, rubbing Dean’s back. “Don’t worry, honey. Sammy’ll be just fine.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

* * *

Dean’s been eleven for five months, and the three Winchesters are travelling across the country. They’ve only stopped for bathroom breaks and drive-thru meals, constantly in motion for weeks at a time. Dean’s lost count over the years of how many times he’s asked John when they’re going back home and John answers shortly, “Not now, son. Watch your brother.” He’s learned to stop asking.

It seemed like that's all Dean's good for anymore; “look after Sam” is pretty much the only order he gets from Dad these days. Watching Sam isn’t really that hard, either. Making up games for the two of them to play is actually kind of fun: looking for cars of certain colours, calling out when they saw particular restaurants on passing signs, choosing letters and finding anything possible that starts with it. John keeps his eyes firmly on the road directly in front of the windshield, and doesn’t say a word. His knuckles whiten against the wheel anytime his boys shout or laugh too loud.

After John almost yells at them for “being obnoxious” for the third time in a row, Sam leans his head against Dean’s shoulder and asks quietly, “Whaddoyou wanna do, Dean? I’m bored.” Dean can hear the tiredness in Sam’s voice, and just ruffles Sam’s hair, mumbling, “Just watch the cars an’ stuff, I guess. You c’n sleep, if you want. Won’t wake you up ‘nless we’re gonna eat.”

So Sam shuffles closer to Dean, molds himself into Dean’s side, and starts snuffle-snoring. Dean counts out sixty seconds, how many breaths Sam takes. It’s eight.

John isn’t any more entertaining at four in the morning than he was at two in the afternoon. He doesn’t even play the radio; the three of them sit in stony silence, with the roar and whine of the Impala the only soundtrack to their travels.

Suddenly, Sam jolts off of Dean, hyperventilating, eyes wide as a deer in headlights. Dean instantly reaches out for him, brings his little brother back to his side, wraps his arms around him loosely, and makes nonsense soothing sounds. “Shh, Sammy, c’mon, it’s all right, you’re just fine, we’re in the car, it was just a dream, you’re okay, I’m here, shh.” Slowly, Sam relaxes, his breath evening out and the tension in his shoulders easing. It feels like he could melt into Dean, wanting to seep into the protective circle of his brother’s arms and never come back out. Dean rubs Sam’s back gently as Sam stops hiccuping.

Dean doesn’t expect John to ask about Sam’s well-being, so he takes it up himself. “Sammy, are you okay? Did you have a nightmare?” Sam nods like his head’s on springs, a tear flying out of his eye and landing on Dean’s shirt. “Okay, Sammy, shh, it’s okay. You don’t have t’ talk about it if you don’t want to.” Sam shakes his head viciously, more fat, salty drops rolling down his cheeks. Dean wraps his arms tighter, making more comforting sounds.

Then he thinks of something that makes him choke up for a second. It’s always calmed Sammy down before… it’s worth a shot… Dean takes a deep, steadying breath, and starts singing shakily.

“Say somethin’ sweet… t-to my baby…” So many memories of Mary flash in front of Dean’s eyes, and he almost doesn’t continue singing. He clutches Sam to him for emotional aid, but all the kid does is snuffle wetly and bury his face in Dean’s shirt. Gotta be brave for Sammy. Mom would’ve wanted me to sing this. It’ll be fine. It only takes that little self-encouragement for him to gather enough nerve to breathe and continue. “Say somethin’ sweet to my boy. His cryin’ is drivin’ me crazy…”

Sam stops actively crying when Dean finishes, but his shoulders don’t quit shaking until John pulls into a motel parking lot with a heavy sigh. Both boys’ heads snap up, awaiting instructions, and John massages the bridge of his nose. There is a long, pregnant silence, before John just huffs and mutters, “C’mon, boys, get your bags.”

Dean stays in the same bed as Sam that night, arms folded around his stomach and nose pressed into the back of his neck, Sam’s already-too-long hair tickling. John, as always, says nothing.

Just when Dean’s eyes are starting to droop—John’s already snoring like a bear—he feels his side being poked. He cranes his head around to see Sam staring up at him, fear and uncertainty making him look four years old again. Dean automatically assumes something’s wrong, so he sits up and scritches his fingers gently through Sam’s hair. “You all right, Sammy?” He fights to keep his voice steady; it wouldn’t do for Sam to think he was scared.

Sam leans into Dean’s comforting touch, whispering, “My dream. It was… you were…” He shudders, trying to think of another way to say what he needed to say. “Dad was so angry, and he… he took it all out on… me…” Tears start slipping out, and Dean rubs Sam’s back, pushes Sam’s bangs back, and makes soft shushing sounds. “I know I don’t have t-to, Dean. I… I want to.” So Dean lets Sam talk, though his worry festers like an open wound. “You… you weren’t there, an’… an’ Dad got to… t’ punchin’ me when he got mad. He’d yell an’ cuss an’ swing his fists around, an’ he clipped me ‘cross the face more ‘n once. I… I felt like cryin’, an’ you weren’t there t’ hug me an’ tell me everything was… okay…” Sam buries his face in Dean’s faded AC/DC t-shirt, silent sobs making his chest cave all the way in on his gasps.

Dean isn’t really sure what to say. The kid just told him something painfully personal, how is he supposed to respond? All he can think of to do is scratch Sam’s back and whisper fiercely, “You know Dad would never hit you, Sammy. Besides, if he did try it, I'm right here. Not goin’ anywhere. How could I possibly get away from you? Can’t drive, an’ walkin’s too tiring.” Sam laughs, but it’s a weak thing, and it’s buried by hiccuping sobs.

John rolls over and snaps gruffly, “Can you two pipe down? ‘M tryin’ t’ sleep.”

Dean almost considers throwing his pillow. But that would mean one less for Sam, and Dean can’t do that. So he brushes Sam’s hair back with one hand, and rubs his back with the other, until Sam falls asleep on his chest, mouth slightly open and face peaceful.

It takes Dean much longer to get to sleep. Eventually, it’s just the sound of Sam’s even breathing that lulls him into a light snooze. At least they can rest until John decides to yank them away again in the dead of night.

* * *

Dean’s twenty-seven, and he’s only had his Sam back with him for… hell, had it only been a year? They drive around, making jokes about fellow drivers, Dean’s music choices, Sam’s shaggy hair, and the general suckiness of the world. Dean feels himself falling into a familiar pattern with Sam again; it was like riding a bicycle, you never really forgot. It just got tucked into the back corner of your brain until you needed it again.

Now… now, with this absolute bastard Jake doing what he’d done, Dean doesn’t think he will ever feel happiness again. He’s cradling his baby brother’s head in his hands for Christ’s sake. He has Sam’s top half resting in his lap, every moment another wish for those hazel eyes to open, for Sam to crow, “Got you good, Dean! Shoulda seen the look on your face!” He wishes he could punch Sam for being such a dick to him, worrying him like that. He wishes they could go back to wasting bad sons of bitches and searching for Dad, like this ‘opening the gates of Hell’ thing never happened.

But, as the saying goes, if wishes were horses, the lame would walk. Or something like that.

Sam’s eyes stay closed, and Dean can’t bear to be even two feet away from him. Bobby drives them back to his house, and it’s a long, silent ride, with Dean staring at Sam’s face, peaceful in death, not even starting to pale yet. If teardrops fall onto Sam’s cheek or stain his shirt, neither Dean nor Bobby mentions it.

When they pull up to Bobby’s house, Dean carries Sam bridal-style to a bed and lays him down gently, fingers automatically brushing bangs out of his face. He lingers on the mole by Sam’s nose, but his heart gives a painful pang and he has to turn away.

Bobby hands him a beer. The two of them drink in silence for a little while; it’s a heavy silence, full of words neither of them want to say. Eventually, Bobby gives up on trying to say something comforting. Dean’s kind of grateful; there really isn’t anything to say that could change his mood right now. Possibly ever. So Bobby goes outside for a little while, and Dean takes another swig of beer, barely tasting it as it slides down his throat. It’s sore from all the raw sobbing he’s done.

When Bobby comes back in calling for Dean, he doesn’t want to tear his eyes off of Sam. He barely registers Bobby came in the door. “Brought you this back,” Bobby calls, holding up a bucket of chicken. Dean feels the strange urge to laugh hysterically, but swallows it down and mutters, “No, thanks. I’m fine.”

Bobby’s insistent; he’s worried about Dean. Without Sam, Dean barely looks alive himself anymore. “You should eat somethin’.” He hopes, quietly, that Dean will fall into childhood habits and obey Bobby like he obeyed John. It doesn’t happen; Dean comes over, but he just reaches for another beer bottle and repeats, “I said, I’m fine.” He downs half the bottle in two swigs and Bobby just watches, sadness in his eyes.

Bobby takes a deep breath; this wasn’t going to be easy to talk about. “Dean. I hate to bring this up, I really do.” Already, Dean was gritting his teeth and avoiding Bobby’s eyes. “But don’t you think maybe it’s time… we bury Sam?”

The look Bobby gets for that suggestion would’ve killed him, if that were possible. Through the deadness in Dean’s eyes, a tiny recalcitrant fire flares up. “No.” Dean sits down, acting like the conversation’s over. Bobby flounders.

“Well, we could maybe—”

Dean cuts him off, anger starting to seep back into his voice. “What, torch his corpse?” Bobby squints at him, unsure how to talk to this new, ancient, tired Dean. “Not yet.”

Bobby’s not through fighting. “I want you to come with me.” He needs to see healthy, living people. Spending all day and night watching over Sam’s cold body can’t be good for him.

“I’m not goin’ anywhere.” The stubborn son of a bitch leans over the table, as if that would prevent Bobby from dragging him to his truck.

“Dean, please.” You’re being ridiculous, was the unspoken end.

“Would you cut me some slack?” My fucking brother just died. Right in front of me.

“I just don’t think you should be alone, that’s all.” You’ve done all you can do. He’s dead, Dean; let him be dead in peace. “I gotta admit, I could use your help.” Dean sees right through that flimsy excuse, or maybe he doesn’t acknowledge it at all. “Somethin’ big is goin’ down. End-of-the-world big.”

“Well, then let it end!” Dean roars, his first real outburst of the day.

Bobby is quietly concerned, and maybe a little skeptical. “You don’t mean that.”

Dean surges up from the table. It’s the first sudden movement he’s made since Sam died, and Bobby feels a tiny twinge of fear, suppressed quickly. “You don’t think so?” His voice is dangerously calm now. “Huh? You don’t think I’ve given enough? You don’t think I’ve paid enough?” Dean raises his eyebrows, as if the end of the world is the simplest thing in itself. “I’m done with it. All of it.” Bobby gives him a long, meaningful look, but Dean just swallows and starts to turn around. “If you knew what’s good for you, turn around and get the hell outta here.” Bobby doesn’t move, so Dean shoves him. Hard. “GO!”

Bobby doesn’t even fight him. He just stands there. Dean takes a ragged breath, mutters, “I’m sorry,” and, “Please, just go.” He turns around and leans heavily against his chair with both hands. Bobby understands that he needs to leave now. Quietly: “You know where I’ll be.”

The door opens and shuts. Dean’s left with the gradually decaying dead body of his baby brother.

Dean meanders over, keeping his red-rimmed eyes on Sam’s serene face the whole time. His little baby brother, the kid he’d looked after since he was too young to think for himself, is lying dead on Bobby’s spare bed, hands folded over his stomach like he's just sleeping. (Dean had done that; Bobby suggested the usual arms-crossed-over-chest position, but Dean thought that would make Sam look too much like a vampire. There had been the faintest ghost of a smile tugging at the corner of Dean’s lips, but it was so small and fleeting, Bobby couldn’t be sure.) Dean's got no idea what to do now; should he give Sam a proper burial? Should he do for Sam what they had done for John? Dean doesn’t think he could bear to see his brother’s giant form flaming, sending smoke billowing up to the sky.

Dean swallows. He just wants his Sammy back. Is that too fucking much to ask? He blinks back tear after tear as it threatens to roll over his eyelids. He won’t cry. Not now. If he was going to cry, it would’ve been over Sam’s freshly ripped-open back wound. It would’ve been after hearing Sam’s goddamn death rattle. He can’t cry here, where no one would be around to comfort him, no one would hear him.

But doesn’t that just make the prospect more attractive? a silky voice whispers in the back of his brain. That’s all it takes; Dean’s had it with staying strong. The tears slide out and they don’t stop. For the most part they’re silent, but Dean’s breathing isn’t all that even; it hitches and pauses occasionally.

Now words float to the front of his mind. For some reason, he hears them in Sam’s voice. He’s only ever heard Sam sing it once in his life by himself, and that was years ago…

“Say somethin’ sweet to my baby…”

The back-up is provided by Mary’s pure, high soprano, which contrasts beautifully with Sam’s rough baritone. Dean falls into a lull, head drooping onto his chest, when the song ends, and the two people who meant the most in Dean’s life leave his head.

He snaps back awake instantly, though still red-eyed and exhausted. He sits in the chair beside Sam’s bed for a while, just staring and memorising Sam’s features. His nose, with its pointy end. His hair, always too long, framing his face. His mouth, so prone to quirks and odd tilts, but Dean loves and waits for every one. His hands, trained from age six to handle a gun without even blinking. His legs, going on for miles and always managing to trip Dean up when he tries to walk over them. His voice, which Dean will never hear again.

No.

Dean will hear it again.

Dean will find a way to hear Sam Winchester’s voice again.

He replays Sam and Mary’s duet in his head all the way to the crossroads.

* * *

Dean’s fifty-five, and damn if that isn’t a pathetic age for a hunter. Not that hunters shouldn’t live to be middle-aged—Bobby had been great proof that age doesn’t affect your ability—but it just… it doesn’t really feel right. When Dean thought ‘fifty-five’ back at twenty-six, he’d thought of a gravestone, reading “Dean Winchester: Great son and brother. Died a hero.” Okay, he didn’t know about the ‘hero’ part, but he always thought he’d been a damn good brother and son. Probably not in that order. But still.

It feels weird to be tying a bow tie around his neck, fiddling with the edges and pulling the sides even. He hasn’t had to dress up for a hunt in so long; mostly it’s research and running out for half an hour to gank the bastard of the day. But there’s finesse required in this hunt, and Dean is prepared to meet the needs of the job.

Sam lumbers in after a few minutes, busy messing with his own bow tie. Dean literally had to wrestle the guy into a kitchen chair to cut his hair a decade ago, and shaved his head down to a couple of inches, close to what Dean had looked like at twenty-five. Sam had hated the haircut, and wore beanies or coats with hoods every day until it grew back out. Now he's rocking the ‘retired-rock-star’ look, a few grey hairs creeping into his short little ponytail.

“You ready to go, man?” Sam smiles over at Dean fighting with his bow tie, and reaches out to fix it for him. Dean lets his arms drop to his sides with a sigh; not like it was really worth bitching about. Sometimes you had to let your little brother—now greyer than you, who’d have thunk—make your bow tie for you.

Sam’s still smiling, and Dean takes a second to focus on his dimples, which had deepened with every year. They're crater-sized now, and currently smooth; Sam didn’t think a beard would “go well” with the look he's trying to pull off, whatever that meant. Dean likes Sam clean-shaven, though; he looks like the younger brother he's supposed to be.

“Well, Cinderella, if you’re done letting me fix your clothes, we’re due at Julia’s wedding reception.” He extends an elbow to Dean, who pulls a face, but slips his arm in Sam’s.

At the reception, Sam and Dean keep their (slightly less keen) eyes out for the succubus, rumoured to be one of the bridesmaids. Dean sticks close to Sam’s side, catching some sidewise glances from other guests, but the Winchesters just smile and nod, and they always look away. No one questions them.

The blushing bride and her male-model husband come in at that moment, grinning and waving at their friends and family. The busty strawberry-blonde near the pile of presents snaps her head around like a dog on point, and Sam nudges Dean’s shoulder, nodding to her. Dean purses his lips, gives an almost unseen nod, and slips through the crowd.

They manage to basically drag the succubus into a separate room and tie her up with iron chains. Sam had researched succubi, and had come to the conclusion that they were either weak to silver or iron. So they’d packed both types of knives, just in case.

It's relatively easy, considering how hard they’d thought it would have been. They're leaving tonight, though, to keep any sort of suspicion off of them. Outsiders in such a small town were always suspect, and the Winchesters don’t need any more police issues on their heads.

The two of them pile into the Impala—Baby’s still limping along, on her very last legs, even if Dean would never admit it—and zoom into the darkening evening. Dean plays Bon Jovi, but nowhere near as loudly as he used to. He claims it’s because he doesn’t need to hear them anymore, he’s heard them so many times. Sam knows it’s because his head pounds painfully to the drum beat.

They’re munching on excessively greasy take-out food when it happens. Neither of them could have prevented it; they were so busy looking out the corners of their eyes for supernatural creatures, they weren’t prepared for the completely… natural.

As Dean’s lifting his burger for another horking bite, he rubs at his chest, confused. Sam sees this, lifts an eyebrow, but Dean shakes his head, still rubbing at the spot just over his heart.

Late that night, he’s massaging his jaw. Sam scowls for a second, sitting up from his slump against the door. (It probably isn’t good for his posture that he slouches so much, but it’s not like it matters; no one expects a fifty-one-year-old to have perfect posture.) Dean puts up the massaging hand, telling Sam to let him be. Sam’s much more hesitant to go along this time, but he sits back and watches Dean “massage the pain out,” as Dean insists later.

The next day, Dean’s sweating and panting, even though it’s barely sixty degrees outside. Sam’s definitely worried now, shucking Dean of the leather jacket he’d bought a couple decades ago. Dean leans a little heavily on Sam as they’re walking through a parking lot to the bar Sam had picked. Dean barely holds down his first beer, and has to stumble out the back door to hurl the first half of his second.

Sam is about two seconds away from bridal-carrying Dean all the way to the emergency room. But, if anything can be said for Winchesters, it’s that they’re exceptionally stubborn.

“I’m fine, Sam. It’s just… a stomach bug, or something,” Dean snaps, absently kneading that spot over his heart again.

Sam huffs, crossing his arms. “Dean. You are not fine. You haven’t been okay for over a day. If you don’t agree to go to the hospital willingly, I will wait until you’re asleep—or sedate you, either one—carry you to the hospital over my shoulder, and stay with you the entire time you’re there until you’re 100% okay. Got it?”

Dean makes a face strikingly similar to a little kid about to throw a fit. But he agrees to let Sam drive him to the hospital (“Not the emergency room, Sam. I’m not dyin’.”)

It turns out, though, he’s closer to dying than the thinks.

“Mister…” the doctor checks his clipboard, “Jones. I don’t even need to do a physical exam, after hearing your answers. I’m afraid that, with your diet and being the age you are, you’re extremely likely to have a heart attack. In fact, I’m rather shocked you haven’t had one yet.”

Dean nods, glances over at Sam to see a barely-contained expression of pure terror. Sam surges forward, hand outstretched. “Doc, what can—what can we do?”

The doctor raises an eyebrow. “There’s really nothing we can do at this point, sir. Your brother here put himself on the fast track to heart disease, and he’s too far set in it now to avoid it before time runs out.” He folds his clipboard under his arm and makes a—thoroughly practiced—sorrowful face.

It takes all of Sam’s patience not to punch him before he leaves the room.

“Dean, that can’t be right, you can’t be—”

“What, Sam? I can’t have a heart attack? You know me, the burgers-and-candy guy. I probably eat about twelve pounds of fatty shit before lunchtime. I wasn’t surprised Doc said that.” He’s rubbing his heart again, and Sam lunges forward, grabbing Dean’s hand and forcing it away. His fingers are right over Dean’s pulse, and he feels it thrumming, but it’s… not a regular rhythm.

A crease forms between Sam’s eyebrows, and he looks at Dean. He’s smiling, the little shit. There’s a tense moment when Sam has to decide if he’s going to knock Dean on the floor or smother him in a hug.

He decides on a hug.

About a week later, Sam comes home from the grocery store, and Dean’s laid out on his bed in their motel, rubbing faintly at his heart again. Sam’s skips five beats, and the groceries almost slip out of his hands.

“God, no, Dean, don’t you fuckin’ scare me like that,” he breathes, fumbling to set the bags on a flat surface before tearing off his scarf and coat, nearly tripping over his long legs to get to Dean. Their thumbs catch on one another as Sam grasps Dean’s hands in his own. He’s ice cold, but there’s a thin sheen of sweat on Dean’s forehead. Sam can smell vomit, and then sees the disgusting splash of it against the wallpaper.

Dean has to struggle to get enough breath to talk. “Sam… Sammy… I…”

“No, shh, Dean, you shouldn’t be talking. Just… just rest, I’m right here, you’re fine, you’re gonna be just fine.” Sam knows he’s babbling, but he honestly can’t think about the possibilities or he’ll go insane. So he sits on the edge of the nasty-smelling bed, stroking his thumb over the back of his brother’s hand, and assuring him he isn’t going to die.

Dean probably knows, though, because he fights for breath again. “Sammy… can y’… sing our… song?”

Bafflement spasms across Sam’s face. He isn’t sure he’s heard Dean right. “Our song? What song? Back in Black? Whole Lotta Love? What?”

Dean shakes his head minutely, coughing once and hissing out, “Choc’late, custard… puddin’, pie.” He has to gasp his way through the next minute or so, and Sam gets it. He swallows hard, once, twice, blinks hard.

With his own heart pounding like a jackhammer, he starts shakily, with a voice sort of rusty with disuse (he needs to cough a couple times before starting in earnest), “Say somethin’ sweet to my baby… Say somethin’ sweet to my boy…”

Dean pants his way through the first part, keeping right up with Sam. He tries to smile for his brother, baby thumbstrokes against the back of Sam’s hand, painful-sounding hitches in his breaths. When Sam stutters through the second “when my baby’s smilin’,” his face relaxes, the corners of his mouth turning up in a faint echo of a smile. One single tear slips down his cheek, his breathing stills. Sam expects him, at any moment, to open his eyes and start laughing fit to burst. “Man, I had you going there! Didja like my setup? I spent about a week getting everything planned, when I was gonna freak you out! I am never letting you live this down, bitch!”

He watches Dean for the next hour and a half. Dean doesn’t stir one inch, doesn’t bat a single eyelash. He stays still and dead. Sam nods, as if he knew that’s what would happen. He takes a deep breath. Now is the time.

* * *

September 29, 2034. Two men, both in their fifties, were found dead in their motel room. One, a certain Dean Winchester, died of a heart attack. The other, Samuel Winchester, supposedly shot himself once in the chest, and, when that shot failed to kill him, once in the head. They were discovered lying side-by-side, with Samuel’s hand over Dean’s heart. No one is sure why Samuel committed suicide. Investigations continue.
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