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30 December 2012 @ 05:57 pm
'Good-byes' - A 'Wishbone' Coda  
Title: 'Good-byes'
Characters: Sam, Dean, Castiel
Wordcount: ~1,500
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Light cussing and a potentially terminal illness
Summary: The boys have settled in Sioux Falls for a less-than-glorious reason: cancer. And they get a holiday visitor.
Notes: This is a coda to Wishbone, and I highly recommend you read it before 'Good-byes' or the experiences just won't be as deliciously sappy! As per usual, hugs and kisses go out to monicawoe for alpha-reading and keeping my Dean-voice in line, and to tesserae_ for once again, being the most brilliant editor and beta-reader a writer could want. She sees the patterns and symbolism behind what is mostly intuition for me. She makes my ramble actually mean something. Any remaining mistakes are purely my own. Mine mine mine. And all concrit welcomed!






Dean stared. His breath vapored white in the biting air and though a small porch protected the apartment’s entry, big fat clods of snowflake caught on the wind and landed on Castiel’s shoulders, in his disheveled hair.

The angel hadn’t changed even a little, from the rumpled trench coat to the three-day stubble … the same almost-frown and weird, bottomless stare.

“It’s customary to ask a person in when the weather is inclement,” Castiel said.

The same rough-shod voice, too. Had grace shredded Jimmy Novak’s vocal cords when the angel first crammed himself inside, or was it a reflection of Castiel’s job: bad-ass soldier of the Lord? Dean used to wonder. Now he just bought it, though it was still mildly disconcerting.

He felt a squeezing in his chest, and it wasn’t fondness or even hope; Dean had long since lost any use for hope. It was something awful and uncertain. Regardless, he stepped aside and allowed the angel passage. If there was any trace of personhood remaining in Castiel, anything of the human vessel, Heaven’s war and Purgatory and all the other crap Dean knew nothing about had surely burned it away. But they shared history, this angel and the Winchesters. A metric ton of it.

They used to be friends.

Castiel tracked melting snow across the salt line at the threshold and paused in the crossroads of the hall, where it split off to the bedrooms and the rest of the house. His gaze flickered across a handful of early holiday cards taped to the wall around a framed picture of Sam, Dean and Dad. Bobby had taken the photo in the summer of ’95, just before Dean’d dropped out of high school, a lifetime ago.

“You have a nice home.” The angel’s smiles were always awkward.

It wasn’t often that Dean was at a loss for words. Nice home. The only reason they had this ‘nice home’ was because his brother was slammed with a fucking terminal illness and now they were just waiting to die. Break out the twenty-year old bottle of scotch, hoorah.

Dean cleared his throat, fighting the constriction in it, and managed to speak. “Take off your coat and stay a while?” He flapped a hand towards the living room, even though he half-wanted to throw punches, release the fist around his heart and level it at the angel’s face. Dean surprised even himself with the sudden boil of bitterness, but it would accomplish nothing except broken knuckles. Maybe surrendering hope wasn’t as clean a stunt as he’d fancied.

“No, thank you.” Castiel moved from the tiled entry but Festus, easily the size and demeanor of a bear trap, arched and spat. His tail brushed fat and the cat had no intention of letting Castiel past.

The angel narrowed his eyes at Festus, tilting his head. He reached a hand out toward the cat and was met by a flurry of clawed swats and a howl that barely qualified as feline. Straightening upright, he fixed Dean with the same considering look.

“Cas, he—” He’s Sam’s cat and Sam’s dying and where the fuck have you been all this God-damned time?

Undaunted, Castiel leaned down again and this time, managed to land two fingers on the cat’s head between his flattened ears. The animal dropped like a rock.

“There. Better,” Castiel decided, clearly pleased with himself.

Dean huffed, swiped a hand through his hair. “Well, that’s awesome. Why are you here, Cas?”

Castiel’s expression wilted, his brows tugging downwards. Dean didn’t want the pity and shouldered away, going for the Johnnie Walker Black he’d abandoned in the living room. Castiel trailed him, stepping over the sleeping attack cat, and stared as Dean sank onto the couch.


(click to enlarge)

“I … I heard, Dean. I did.” The angel held up his left hand, a broken bit of wishbone caught between his fingers.

“What, they run out of reapers? Or is this what angels are doing these days?” Dean unscrewed the cap and took a slug of whisky, let it burn down his throat.

“Sometimes,” Castiel said frankly. “But that’s not why I’m here.”

Dean coughed out a mean laugh. “I thought you said you heard my wish.”

“And I did.”

“So?”

The angel sat in Sam’s recliner by the window, hands set patiently upon his knees. “I cannot grant your wish, Dean.”

“Fan-fucking-tastic.”

“But not because it isn’t Sam’s time to die—”

Dean pinched his eyes shut. His heart threatened to climb up his throat in a desperate bid for escape.

“—but because it isn’t your time to die.”

Awesome. He couldn’t even have his own death the way he wanted it. Dean’s entire life, he’d been dedicated to everyone but himself—one particular person, actually—and now, as it was all winding to a close, he wasn’t allowed to write the finale to his own story. What was it that Cas had asked him, years before—after the second, and theoretically final, time he’d lost Sam? What would you rather have: peace or freedom? Yeah, so much for that. The answer was: neither. It wasn’t his decision to make, apparently.

Dean waved the bottle noncommittally, staring out the window beyond Cas’ head. Frost on the glass made the streetlights fracture into a thousand tiny diamonds. “Whatever,” he murmured, taking another pull.

Castiel leaned forward, shifting his posture ever so slightly. “Sheriff Mills, however, was the one with the bigger piece of wishbone. I shall honor her request.” He stood up and made straight for the bedrooms.

Dean found himself briefly paralyzed, stunned by the angel’s sudden purpose. His knees ached. The long day spent cooking, eating and drinking had sapped his energy, and fuck, but Cas could book when it suited him. He heard Sam’s door creak open—it made a particular sound that Dean was far too attuned to—and sore knees or not, Dean pushed himself to his feet and left the whisky behind.

The angel was parked in the doorway, watching.

Sam had turned onto his back, a fragile hand resting over his heart. The neck of his sweatshirt hung wide and lop-sided around ridges of collar bone and the light from the hallway cut across his closed eyes, the lids thin and softly blue. Gently breathing. He was bald as a baby, a dusty shadow of new hair surfacing like velvet.

Even though he could still see the pulse of life at his brother’s temple, could see Sam’s eyes flicker beneath his papery lids, Dean was sourly reminded of all the bodies they’d examined in morgues, in the myriad no-name towns he and Sam had visited throughout their lives as hunters.

“He’s dreaming of fireworks,” Castiel said softly, and stepped into the room.

The old mattress complained when he lowered himself carefully onto the edge of the bed. He placed a hand atop Sam’s and the gesture was so tentative, Dean would’ve thought the angel was touching something imminently breakable. A moth’s wing instead of flesh and bone.

The glow was weak at first. Just a flicker, a spark. But as it brightened and expanded, it illuminated the flesh between Castiel’s fingers, warm and full of life, and rolled fog-like over the bed. The covers shivered as though pushed by a breeze and in the silence, Dean could hear the blood pounding in his own ears.

Then, Castiel’s grace flared around them. Dean knew that’s what it was, had seen it operate frequently enough. It smelled a little like cut grass, a little like heat, when dust was burning off hot coils. The knot that had been stationed in his chest since Cas’ arrival began to release. Dean squeezed his eyes shut against the glare and when he opened them again, the angel was gone.

The house groaned as the wind kicked up and battered the old siding.

Sam sighed. He rolled towards the doorway, where the light was still cutting into the room, and cracked one eye. “Shit, you’re creepy, Dean. Go ‘way.”

Dean laughed to himself, feeling old and foolish. “Shut up. I can check on you if I wanna.” He folded his arms across his chest and leaned on the frame, hovering out of spite.

“You too, Cas.”

The hair on Dean’s nape prickled. “What?”

But Sam’s eyes were already closed again, and he didn’t answer.

Dean kept staring, had to. He was afraid if he moved, his knees might cave. There were traces of wet shoeprints on the wooden floor beside Sam’s bed and the faintest smell of springtime in the air, soft and green.

He bit the inside of his cheek, hard, as he watched the steady rise and fall of Sam’s chest. Finally, Dean let his gaze drift out the window, at the snow coming down in fatter, faster clumps to pile on the sill.

“You still suck at good-byes,” he whispered.


(click to enlarge)



*art notes: Tesserae made mention of liking that first image so I HAD to give it a try. I probably should've attempted a different vantage point, though. Inside, looking at Cas, because Dean ended up a tad droopy. Hmm. Maybe next time. And re. the second doodle, I just HAD to see what Sam looked like, nigh-hairless. Like Michael Stipe, apparently. Ha! Anywho, PS7 with a million different photorefs. As per usual.
 
 
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: 'Fall On Me' - REM
 
 
 
monicawoe: sweatermonicawoe on December 30th, 2012 11:06 pm (UTC)
Oh such a bitter-sweet fic made even more bitter-sweet by the gorgeous art!

I actually quite like the one of Sam, as sad as it is - the eye turned out especially well - very clearly him! The first pic is lovely too though- Dean's expression is so very world-weary-Dean. Great stuff!

Beautiful story, beautiful art- by a beautiful lady!
The indefatigable Mrs. Griffinquickreaver on December 30th, 2012 11:08 pm (UTC)
YOU HELPED! *smishes* How'd your gingerbread turn out?
(no subject) - monicawoe on December 30th, 2012 11:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - quickreaver on December 30th, 2012 11:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
cassiopeia7: Dean&Sam: Brotherscassiopeia7 on December 30th, 2012 11:41 pm (UTC)
Oh, my heart! You broke me a little bit with this one, you really did.

Even though this part:
Castiel leaned down again and this time, managed to land two fingers on the cat’s head between his flattened ears. The animal dropped like a rock.

“There. Better,” Castiel decided, clearly pleased with himself.

. . . made me laugh like a loon. ;)

Love the idea of Castiel's grace smelling like cut grass and heat.

The art is equally beautiful. Dean looks so, so careworn, exhausted, and desperate. (I love the longer hair, too. Mmm-hmm.) And oh, poor Sam. He looks so fragile there, as if the slightest wind could blow him away. The softness of the piece, the shift of light and shadow is purely gorgeous, especially the play of light along his iris. Beautiful!
The indefatigable Mrs. Griffinquickreaver on December 31st, 2012 02:29 am (UTC)
I really love Cas. I love his otherness. And I especially love his growing relationship with cats. Can't help it!

As usual, you are magnificently generous with your praise; NEVER STOP. You make me feel fancy. :D (Thanks for reading, doll. You're always so smart and savvy with your comments. Just like you.)
tesserae_ on December 31st, 2012 12:27 am (UTC)
Eee, the window! And Dean staring out through the frost - love this, droop or no. And I love the changes, too. Nice work, hon (and you know I love your artist's eye when it comes to prose...)
The indefatigable Mrs. Griffinquickreaver on December 31st, 2012 03:00 am (UTC)
Aw, crap, I had a nice response written and the Varnish Error goat ate it. Thanks, LJ.

Annnywho, Dean did NOT turn out the way I saw him in my brain, but I couldn't NOT do this picture -- you more than deserve any scrap of anything I can give you. Thanks a bajillion times again. You make it seem like I know half-way what I'm doing ... it's magic.

Someday I hope to be able to illustrate one of your SPN fics again. It could happen, yeah? :D Happy holidays, L. You're amazing.
(no subject) - tesserae_ on December 31st, 2012 05:07 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - quickreaver on December 31st, 2012 03:34 pm (UTC) (Expand)
borgmama1of5: Mollyborgmama1of5 on December 31st, 2012 05:39 am (UTC)
Meep! So will Sam be all right? Please write a coda to your coda!!!

(And beautiful art!)
The indefatigable Mrs. Griffinquickreaver on December 31st, 2012 03:38 pm (UTC)
LOL! That's so funny you say this because before tesserae got her beta-hands on it, it was even LESS optimistic! I actually have an idea for a long!fic that precedes Wishbone, which I might do first. Then I'll go back and coda my coda. :D (Hey, btw, did you ever get that pizza check I sent, post Chi-con?)
Rince1windrince1wind on December 31st, 2012 06:53 am (UTC)
I love your art! And I second borgmama's request!
The indefatigable Mrs. Griffinquickreaver on December 31st, 2012 03:40 pm (UTC)
Hee! I'll tell you what I told her: first, I have a case!fic that could lead up to 'Wishbone'. I might just do that first for a Big Bang next year. But I'm so glad you're reading and enjoying (I think...) :D
Reaperreapertownusa on December 31st, 2012 09:10 am (UTC)
Hmm...I think LJ ate my last comment so let's try again and hopefully you don't get two -

I'm glad you didn't go with a different vantage point because I love that one. You did such a beautiful job capturing the snow and I love the contrast in colors from the cool outside to the warm inside.

With Sam's illustration, you really got that utter exhaustion that comes with cancer treatment. It's so beautifully devastating with the sepia and the lighting is so well done.
The indefatigable Mrs. Griffinquickreaver on December 31st, 2012 03:43 pm (UTC)
I was having varnish errors all day yesterday; I'm surprised I got this thing posted at all. Thanks for commenting, dahlink, despite LJ! (I think it's Dean's expression I wasn't happy with; he looks a little pissy, and I'm not sure that's how he was feeling...heh...)
(Deleted comment)
The indefatigable Mrs. Griffinquickreaver on December 31st, 2012 03:56 pm (UTC)
Doesn't sound stupid at all, suspecting Dean's wish! It's what I envisioned from the get-go, so that makes you pretty derned clever. (So how I'm patting us both on the back? Hee!) Dean is the one who's always been ready to die young and leave a good-looking corpse.

Guess I've still gotta coda my coda! Thanks for the lovely comment. :D I'm always pleasantly surprised when people see fit to say anything about my stuff, good bad or otherwise!

(Oh, dang, I still owe you some recs. I'll get around to that this week...)
Amberamberdreams on December 31st, 2012 02:36 pm (UTC)
I'm a very bad person because I totally put this in a folder to do, then forgot all about it. My brain is sadly lacking at the moment. Maybe it's just as well, because there wouldn't have been much for me to add to this, and I'd have been a snivelling mess reading it - so...

I love the perspective on the window pic - and if Dean is droopy, well, he had good cause to be, didn't he? And you gave them a plaid throw for their sofa.

So is all now well with our Sammy? Meep.

Edited at 2012-12-31 02:37 pm (UTC)
The indefatigable Mrs. Griffinquickreaver on December 31st, 2012 03:59 pm (UTC)
Lady, my "to read" and "to finish painting" folder is a mile thick. I judge NO ONE! But I do say "Thank you!"
Thunder cats, assemble!kettle_o_fish on December 31st, 2012 06:14 pm (UTC)
Perfect coda is perfect! :D
The indefatigable Mrs. Griffinquickreaver on January 1st, 2013 03:36 am (UTC)
Oh, pfft! *smishes*
strgazr04strgazr04 on January 1st, 2013 02:09 am (UTC)
Wow. This was so good. Just read both of these fics. Are you going to continue this? I really hope you do!
The indefatigable Mrs. Griffinquickreaver on January 1st, 2013 03:37 am (UTC)
I'm not sure what else should come after this! But I have some thoughts as to before ...

Thanks bunches for reading, and happy New Year!
(no subject) - strgazr04 on January 1st, 2013 04:05 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - quickreaver on January 1st, 2013 04:16 am (UTC) (Expand)
smallworld_incsmallworld_inc on January 2nd, 2013 10:55 pm (UTC)
I haven't read the fic yet >< but the art is gorgeous!
Poor Sam, he doesn't look in a very good state :/
I really love the POV you used in the first art, how the scene is seen from the outside and the lighting of the second piece. It adds to the sadness of the pic.
This is awesome to be like you, multi-talented, to be able to write a fic and to illustrate it! I'm looking forward to reading the story :)
The indefatigable Mrs. Griffinquickreaver on January 3rd, 2013 01:36 am (UTC)
Oh, you know how I love to punish Sam. ;)

You write TOO, lady! Your graphic mini-novels? That totally counts! I do think you'll like the fics, though; they end a little ambiguously, but hopeful!

Thanks for the lovely words!
becc_jbecc_j on January 4th, 2013 01:57 am (UTC)
Gorgeous art and story <3

I like the perspective with Cas and Dean, and really love the lighting across Sam's face, took me a moment to realise he had one eye open. Looks like he's looking at me now!
The indefatigable Mrs. Griffinquickreaver on January 4th, 2013 04:17 am (UTC)
Sam's portrait is like one of those Jesus paintings that follow you around the room. HE'S WATCHING. :D

My favorite part is actually the protection sigil outside their window. Truly, for me, it's the little things! (Even though anatomy and perspective takes me bloody forever...sheesh...)

Thanks, Becc! As always, you're too kind.
(no subject) - becc_j on January 4th, 2013 09:39 am (UTC) (Expand)
mentholpixiementholpixie on February 9th, 2013 04:10 am (UTC)
How do I always manage to miss your awesome stories?! I think it might be some sort of conspiracy...

This is so awesome, I'm thrilled you added more to this, and the art - the ART!
The indefatigable Mrs. Griffinquickreaver on February 9th, 2013 02:49 pm (UTC)
I still have a cancer-tinged case!fic bouncing around in my noggin. (Oooh, that might just involve Benny, hmmm...)

I'm glad you stumbled on this one! I wasn't as keen on the art results as I wanted to be but isn't that just the way? Thanks, doll!
The Kink That Winked: spn-assbuttkinkthatwinked on March 3rd, 2013 07:54 am (UTC)
Loved it.

Now this is my kind of Castiel: blunt, no sentimentality, focused on his mission, doling out incredible miracles with the efficiency of someone who's got better shit to do somewhere else, and then gone without even wanting thanks. This is like Cas when we first met him.

It makes perfect sense that all Dean wanted when Sam died was to go out with him. I was wondering how he was so at peace with the whole situation, heavy drinking aside.

I love how you didn't write some miraculous burst of energy and life within Sam. He's still emaciated, still sleeping, and might still be wiped out for the next few days. And yet, we know he's going to live. I loved his lines at the end, too.

The artwork was great, but I have to give special kudos to that last drawing of Sam. Damn, that looks like him! Even with the bony frame, skeletal face and bald head, you can tell that's supposed to be Sam. Great job on his facial features!
The indefatigable Mrs. Griffinquickreaver on March 4th, 2013 05:47 am (UTC)
THANKS! I had a particularly dispiriting day so this review is exactly what I needed!

I'm totally with you (obviously): I love Cas most when he is 'other', when he is strange and inhuman but so, so close--it's almost 'uncanny valley.'

You are awesome for taking the time to write such a nice, detailed comment. Today, you win all the good karma! Stop by any time. :D
sylvia_locustsylvia_locust on March 3rd, 2013 05:43 pm (UTC)
I adored Wishbone, I'm not sure how I missed this! Fantastic coda, and yay Jody for pulling the bigger part of the bone!!

Dreaming of fireworks...sniff...

Lovely.
The indefatigable Mrs. Griffinquickreaver on March 4th, 2013 05:48 am (UTC)
Jody is totally my homegirl. Thank you SO much for the kind words! :D I needed 'em today.