characters: Dean Winchester, Sam Winchester, a smidge of Castiel, and a couple of cameos ;)
warnings: Season Nine, major character death (a necessary evil!), suicidal ideation, angst a'plenty
story/art summary: Divergent from 9.10: Sam, Dean and Castiel drive off together after expelling Gadreel. Everything comes back to haunt them. The Trials are not forgotten, Dean hates his life, the tiny town of Widow Jones Hollow has a few unexpected visitors, and they all live happily ever after. No, I swear, they do. (With bonus, almost SFW art at the end; no peeking!)
A03 link to Hard Way Home HERE, for your downloading pleasure.
A very special thank you to the High Priestess of the Boy King, my darling monicawoe, who ran this event and gave me a speedy, heartening beta. Love you, bb!
Happy Anti-Christmas, Liss! \0/!
Just beyond Louisville, KY was when Dean began to notice the symptoms again.
The night was the darkest dark, and none of them had wanted to talk. Sam had his jaw clenched so tight, Dean could almost hear bone grind. Castiel, to his credit, had the smarts to stay silent in the backseat. Somewhere along the line, the angel had lost his tie, and his shirt was still soggy with rain. What the hell could Dean say to either of them anyway, after Gadreel’s grand exit? “Hey, big picture, we’re all alive, right?” Yeah, that would go over like a turd in a punchbowl.
Dean didn’t even dare turn on the radio. With his luck, something stupid like “Bridge Over Troubled Water” would cross the airwaves and make the tension in the car that much worse. He let the rain and slupping sound of the wipers be their soundtrack, which felt pointedly appropriate. White noise, bland and noncommittal.
Eventually, Sam must’ve grown tired of the teeth-gritting, and his head drooped against the passenger side window, lungs wheezing in his sleep. Dean couldn’t help but slump with relief. He loosened his grip on the steering wheel, where his knuckles were beginning to ache. He glanced in the rear view mirror to see Cas watching him back. They still didn’t speak.
Half-hour down the highway and away from Louisville’s outer belt, Sam got restless and sweaty. Dean could see the perspiration dotting that massive forehead, the way long strands of hair coiled from the damp and stuck across it. Sam looked pale in the strobe of the streetlights. Something bleated warning in the back of Dean’s brain. He put his fingertips to Sam’s cheek and felt the fever through his stubble.
Great. Dean wouldn’t have been at all surprised by a flat tire or a sudden deer in the road, at this point. His luck was just shit. As a precaution, he got off at the next exit to gas up, maybe find something to eat that didn’t come in a cellophane wrapper, buy a bottle of juice for Sam to wash down a fistful of aspirin. Cas was starting to creep him out with all the staring; the guy needed a magazine or something.
Dean studied the barely visible thunderheads off in the distance as he pumped gas. The sky was a barren glow to the west—probably the ambient radiance from a town down that way, Corydon if he remembered the signs right. The rain had dried up maybe fifteen minutes ago; looked like they were leaving the storm behind. Finally.
But that was Dean’s mistake, to dare hope they were driving out of trouble and not into it. He was tapping off the last drips into the gas tank when the shotgun door opened and Sam spilled out onto his knees, coughing. Spitting dark red onto the concrete. Before Dean could throw down the nozzle, Cas had his door open and was hovering over Sam, effectively blocking the view and that made Dean panic harder.
“What, Cas, WHAT?” Dean barked.
Sam was retching, Dean could hear him, see the crown of his head almost kissing the ground from behind Cas’ overcoat.
Cas looked over his shoulder, eyes pinched in disapproval. “It’s back, Dean. The final Trial.”
God damned Gadreel, literally. Dean drove like there was a tornado on their tail. What had the fucker been doing inside of Sam all this time? Playing ‘Operation’? Getting a nice little spa treatment in a Winchester-shaped costume, but keeping Sam just healed up enough to fool the simple folk?
Dean had never felt more played in his life. Not even when Gadreel had put Sam’s big palm on Kevin’s head and seared the life right out of the kid. Dean had a seething knot in his belly that was exactly the color and size of hate.
They stopped only long enough to let Sam hack up another piece of lung, or get cups of ice from fast-food drive-thrus to keep him from seizing with fever. Sam’s skin had gone from waxy to almost translucent, the sick gray of skim milk, except for his arms. There, the blood vessels glowed like fireflies, and Sam clenched and unclenched his fists in repetitive gestures of pain.
By the time they got back to the bunker, Sam seemed to have stabilized. Or maybe he didn’t have anything else left to give, but whatever. He managed to get himself to bed on his own accord. Castiel offered to stay up, mill about the place and keep an ear out for Sam so that Dean could get sleep. Dean was too zombie-eyed and spent to argue. No amount of caffeine or dubious stimulants was going to keep him upright.
It wasn’t supposed to spin out this way. This was Dean’s whole world: Sam, the bunker, one screwed-up angel and a big black car. That was it, all he had. All that mattered a damn. Was it too much to ask that these few things, these precious few things, stayed whole?
Apparently, it was.
Come morning, Dean found a note by the coffee maker, in Sam’s square, unfancy handwriting.
I have to do this. Sorry, Dean.
And Castiel was gone too.
At first, Dean tore the bunker apart, looking for clues. Sam, as spartan as he was, had taken almost the entire contents of his room with him, except for his phone and his laptop. He knew Dean would use them to track him. His guns were gone, along with the Kurdish knife, three pairs of jeans, a handful of plaid and t-shirts, boots, belt. There were faintly dust-free spots on a few shelves here and there throughout the bunker, where items had been, but Dean wasn't the one who’d spent hours organizing and categorizing the crap so he had no clear idea what was missing.
Praying to Castiel offered him nothing but dead air. He even tried a summoning, but Cas was wearing somebody else's grace. It was like pulling at smoke, immaterial and slipping through his fingers.
He put out calls through the hunter grapevine, even though the name Winchester didn't exactly loosen tongues. Jody hadn't seen him. Garth was MIA, but Dean got the distinct impression that the guy's radio silence was unrelated. Or at least there was nothing recent tying Garth and Sam and Cas together. He even tried a ouija board, and the planchette would quiver occasionally, but never spelled out word one. If Sam were in the Veil, surely he'd be seance-ing up a storm by now. Dean's gut told him Sam wasn't dead.
As the days passed, Dean's gut feelings were all that he had. Bobby's words years ago came back to haunt him: "Not much to be done if Sam doesn't want to be found." Sam had plain dropped off the face of the earth, taking Castiel with him.
Dean never quit, he never stopped looking because he couldn't. This was all on him; he'd blown this up. He didn't take on the Trials, he'd opened the door to Gadreel, he'd failed Sam, he’d failed himself. What a fool he had been, to pretend this wasn't going to come back to bite him on the ass.
He didn't regret saving Sam—he'd do it again—but he sure as fuck regretted lying to him.
Spilt milk, though. He could set this right. He didn't know how or when, but until he saw a six and a half foot tall body with a mess of brown hair and patchwork-colored eyes, until he had something to burn, he would stay the course.
After all, Sam didn't tell him not to. Dean carried that last note folded up in his wallet, to keep reminding himself. Proof.
But weeks turned into months, hope drifted into the distance. Dean still woke up every day and checked all his phones, the email, but he stopped looking to Heaven for answers. He took on jobs, to give his brain and his body something to do. He spent too much time on target practice and not enough time on personal upkeep.
Eventually, he stopped checking email.
Some days, he didn't even get out of bed.
It was on one of those days, when he'd been hanging on the edge of sleep and listening to the bunker breathe, that Dean felt something change. A sudden and black abscess popped open in the middle of his chest. He had to put his hand there, to be sure it wasn't real. He felt only ribs and sweat and dirty t-shirt, but the hole was still there, as tangible as a vacuum. The firm presence of nothingness.
Sam was dead. Sam had died, at that moment. Dean knew it with wild certainty.
He stared, unblinking, at the spiderweb-thin cracks in the ceiling of his bedroom and let the water run from the corners of his eyes.
And he felt very, very sorry for himself; he still had no body to burn.
Dean sat at the table in the kitchen bunker with his Glock in his hand. He already had the taste of gun oil in his mouth. It was only a matter of time. Minutes, really. His beard itched, he smelled so bad he was offending even himself, and he didn't give two shits. The milk in the 'fridge had soured. The only thing edible left in the place was a half-empty bottle of Johnny Walker.
Then he heard it. A tinny rumble, light clattering, clicking. Like a deathwatch beetle. Dean set the gun down and slowly turned around in his chair, stared at the place on the counter where the sound was coming from.
His phone was lighting up. With the last of its battery juice, it was buzzing against the empty breadbox. No one had called Dean in almost two weeks, and even then, it had been a wrong number. He scraped the chair back and stared. The phone kept chittering in a way it didn't usually. It wasn't anyone's ringtone he'd programmed, and it usually pinged when he used to get texts. Maybe it was shorting out. Just like him.
Dean crossed the room and touched his dirty fingers to the phone, turned it over. It was flashing coordinates. Still buzzing madly.
And all he could think was “Sam.”
Just before Louisville, KY was when Dean heard the whispers that all demon activity had vanished.
He’d taken better care of the Impala than he had his own basic needs. She was gassed and itching to run. He didn’t even throw the barest necessities into her trunk, just tore out of Lebanon towards West Virginia, the countryside warping by in a tunnel-vision blur.
He got stopped in a speed trap passing through some blink-and-you-missed-it town in Missouri. Dean looked so rough, the state trooper bought his bullshit line of a sick parent and let him off without an extra fine for not wearing his seatbelt. The backseat was piling up with energy drink cans that rattled against each other, to the steady growl of Baby’s engine. The trooper drove off, Dean threw the ticket out the window, and kept going at 90 mph.
Necessity forced him to pause for a bathroom stop at a travel plaza outside of Louisville, where he bought a t-shirt and a stick of deodorant. Checked his phone, in case he’d missed another cryptic text or someone surfaced with a Sam spotting. It was a possibility now, he knew it as certainly as he knew that he needed a shower. He ordered a Cold Cut Combo from the Subway at the plaza and pored over a flurry of emails while he was waiting—all the hunter mailing lists were lit up, reporting the sudden absence of infernal trouble. Sightings of spontaneous smoke-outs flooded in from all over the world. Even the Catholic Church noted some disturbance in The Force, exorcisms cancelled and an increase in confessions.
Something was brewing, and Dean had long since stopped believing in coincidences. He wolfed down his sandwich and before he hit the road again, he stood by the Imapala’s trunk, watching as the sun collapsed behind the hilly, green landscape.
“Cas,” he said. “You got your ears on?”
Crickets. Literally. Crickets and road noise was the only response.
He wasn’t exactly surprised. Maybe both Heaven and Hell had closed up shop.
“No Hell below us, above us only sky.” Dean laughed to himself, unamused, and got back behind the wheel.
The sun was rising again as he crossed over into The Mountain State.
Dean wasn’t a big fan of West Virginia, as a rule. It had the bizarre quality of being both dense and desolate at the same time. Claustrophobically smothered by old mountains, it was frigid and slushy in the winter, humid with rotting vegetation in the summer. He found it hard to breathe here. Why would Sam pick this armpit of a place to meet?
He had a flash of doubt: maybe it’s not Sam. But he swallowed that back and clenched the steering wheel until his joints ached. Of course it was Sam.
Dean considered as he drove. Maybe Sam liked the ageless quality of the hills, as though superstition had sunk in deep to the very bones of the land and negated time. It was easier to convince people of magic and monsters in this place; the legends were steeped in the dirt and the kudzu. So many vacant-looking trailer homes and shacks clung to the steep sides like barnacles, hollow-eyed children looking out at the thunder of a passing muscle car. Goats and chickens dotted the yards. The air smelled like compost.
He was forced to slow down, as the roads got twisty and two-laned. The sky darkened and clouds began to congeal. A mist collected in the dips and around corners, and Dean turned on the headlights even though it wasn’t yet noon. He glanced at the compass on his phone; he was close. His heart kicked up, sent adrenaline to bite at his fingertips. The road snaked in on itself and then a town came into view.
Well, ‘town’ was being ambitious. It wasn’t much more than a sign that read Widow Jones Hollow, Unincorporated, and the main street that cut through the middle.
“Awesome,” Dean said to nobody.
He looked at the phone again and realized the reception had cut out. Of course it would. Made sense that there’d eventually be no cell towers reaching these valleys. Pocketing the phone, he pulled over and parked alongside an empty storefront that used to be a taxidermy shop, from all outward signs. He fished his gun from the glovebox and stuck it at the small of his back, under his belt, then got out and continued on foot.
The mist had picked up to a drizzle that ran into his eyes and down his collar.
Widow Jones Hollow was empty. Not a living soul around, not a single car except his.
But it wasn’t a ghost town, with old, long-empty buildings full of dust and varmints. There were indications that people had been there recently. The windows were unbroken and the doorways free of squatters’ garbage. No lights were glowing, even though the storm was effectively blotting out the sun.
Dean kept close to the buildings, trying to stay under overhangs and out of the rain. He squinted into every window he passed, noted abandoned coffee cups and fans in the ceilings still spinning. It reminded him of that town in Oregon, where the Croatoan virus has swept down like a Biblical plague from God, gory and indiscriminate, making homicidal fiends of everyone it touched. Almost everyone. Except Sam.
But God was dead and if the reports were correct, Hell was no longer leaking onto the Earth, so neither a plague nor demonic virus had any business here.
His boot connected with something on the sidewalk and Dean paused, looking down. A bird. The thing must’ve flown into a windowpane and snapped its frail neck. But then there was another bird not five feet beyond the first, and then another. All different species and all recently deceased, no rot or maggots.
“What the fuck?” Dean toed the carcass aside and kept walking. The sky had turned an eerie sulfurous color, and he drew his gun. Just in case.
He rounded the corner slowly, pressed to the brick, and half-way down the block, saw movement and color. The flash of a neon sign, bright blue and blinking “BAR.” Dean could hear thin, country music under the patter of rain. A light burned inside the hole-in-the-wall, though he couldn’t see movement through the tiny windows. If this wasn’t Sam’s doing, it was a trap. Either way, Dean was sick and wet and fucking tired, and he just wanted to be done with it all. He was well past exhaustion, and the air was starting to stink like a butcher shop, the odor hanging in the back of his throat. He put out his palm, and the drops turned faintly red as they pooled in the cup of his hand. Dean looked up, squinting into the sky. Thunder curdled behind the clouds and the rain came down harder. And redder.
“Jesus Christ,” Dean said, even though he knew the oath would go unheard. He ran for the lights of the bar and lightning snapped across the sky, as if chasing him. Dean threw open the door, bouldering inside.
The bar was almost as empty as every other building in the Hollow, dark and decorated with deer heads and old beer signs. Took him a second for his eyes to adjust. He didn’t know the song on the jukebox, but it was almost surely Johnny Cash. Something about a troubadour. At least it was warm and dry, and familiar with all the fond smells of a dive bar. He stomped his boots and scraped a hand through his hair. His lips tasted metallic, coppery like blood, and he spat onto the floor.
“Hey, now, didn’t your mother raise you better than that?”
He hadn’t noticed her at first, a small, dark-haired women with her back to him, behind the bar, polishing a glass with a raggedy towel. He knew that voice.
She turned around and smirked, all red lips and arching brows. “Oh, wait. That’s right. Mommy died before she could pass along any manners.” Then, as an afterthought, “Hiya, Dean-o.”
Dean had his gun trained on Meg in a blink. He couldn’t speak, not because something unnatural was constricting his throat, but because he was so disappointed he thought he might wail if he tried.
She regarded the gun blandly as she tossed the rag across her shoulder and picked up a bottle of whiskey. “S’okay. I get it. Hurts my widdle feelings, but I get it.” She poured him two fingers of liquid apology and slid the glass towards him, across the bar. “Stop being such a dick, if you can, and have a drink. On the house.”
His hand was shaking and the gun was heavy in his grip. Gradually, it drifted back down to point at the floor. The bar was vacant except for the two of them and the stuffed deer heads; no good reason not to take that drink. He could shoot her later if he still felt like it, and then she could kill him with a flick of her wrist. “You look good,” he said, mildly surprised because she really did. She looked like she did when she’d first snagged the brunette meatsuit. Tiny and sharp, like a stiletto.
“Thanks. You? Not so much.”
Dean slid onto a stool, set the gun on the bar. Having it there suddenly felt like just a formality, an old useless habit. “Ah, well, you know how it is. It ain’t easy being me.” He threw back the whiskey and hissed at the burn. “Thought you were dead. I mean, dead dead.”
She reached across with the bottle and poured him another. “I was.”
“Now, I’m not.”
“Well, thanks, Susie Helpful.”
“What do you want with me, Meg?”
She snorted a laugh at him, and not a kindly one either. “Me? Nothing. If I had my druthers, I’d have set up date night with a certain blue-eyed tree-topper, but wasn’t my call. I’m just the executive assistant here. Hell’s finest, mind you. Can’t keep a good demon down.”
Dean grunted, sipped the second drink a little more prudently. He was already feeling the heat of the first one in his belly. “So who signs your paycheck?”
Meg just winked at him, lips twisting up.
A silhouette appeared in the doorway along the back side of the bar, might’ve been the restroom area, this voice far less familiar. “Well. Look what the hellhounds dragged in.”
Dean curled fingers around the grip of his gun and squinted into the gloom. It wasn’t until the kid walked into the glow of an old beer sign that Dean saw the smart-ass glint in his eyes, the fleeting resemblance to John Winchester. “Adam.”
“Sweet. You remember,” he dead-panned, taking a seat two away from Dean. The space left between them was far more than physical.
Dean stared, felt his gut ball up with guilt and a distinct lack of something clever to say. “H-how—?”
Adam tipped his head as Meg put a beer down in front of him. “I got sprung. Put back together again. Found a better line of work.” He blinked, and his eyes flicked black.
Dean let misery wash over him and fill up every porous part of his psyche. It almost made him laugh, then it almost made him cry. He felt his eyes begin to burn and he swallowed against the sear of liquor coming back up. This wasn’t the sort of closure he had in mind, no, it sure wasn’t.
“Oh, don’t,” Adam said. “Don’t feel bad for me now, Dean. I like my new job. Damned good at what I do, and quite a bit of a promotion from the ol’ Cage, huh?”
Dean curled his fingers under so the demons wouldn’t see them shaking.
“Seriously, Dean. It’s okay. Everything is really, really simple now. So perfectly clear. Unburdened, yanno, with—” he waved a dismissive hand, “—conscience or whatever.”
Meg made a bit of a pout and offered Dean her towel, to dry his eyes.
“Fuck off,” Dean said.
Thunder bellowed and lightning cracked. The jukebox cut off sharply as the lamps, dangling from cords in the ceiling, flickered and swayed, and Dean wasn’t sure how he managed to keep his wits, but he did. Maybe he was just that spent inside.
Meg and Adam drew up taller, at attention, their eyes full of pitch.
As the storm’s ire settled, Sam’s quiet voice filled the room like the press of gravity and suddenly, he was standing at the front door, backlit by what was left of the daylight.
“That’s enough, you two.”
There was nothing in the world quite like that voice. It made Dean feel so many things at once, he thought he might fly apart. Relief, victory, irritation, stupid blind joy, but underlying it all, fear. His heart insisted, this is your brother even as his brain screamed, this is a predator. And Dean had seldom been accused of using his brain. “Holy shit.”
Adam snorted a laugh, and Sam sort of did too. “Hey, Dean.”
Dean didn’t think any of this was the least bit funny. He moved forward, his feet like bricks, until he could touch Sam, until he could be sure Sam was really there and not some figment of a fraying mind. He reached out his hand and put it on Sam’s chest, right where Dean had felt his own vacant spot, the night Sam had died. His brother was solid, warm. Wearing that tan sweater he’d brought back from Amelia’s. Same old worn jeans, slouchy and just barely caught on his hips. Same ol’ Sam.
And yet, not.
Something shimmered behind his eyes, deep under the hazel and behind the tiny black pupils, something iridescent and alive.
Dean leaned in and wrapped his arms around Sam’s shoulders; Sam embraced him back, big hands pressed to Dean’s spine.
“It’s okay,” Sam said against Dean’s neck.
No. It wasn’t. Dean pulled back and took a steadying breath. “Where did you go? You left. Just fucking left.”
Sam bit the inside of his cheek and rocked on his heels, considering. “Dean, let’s take a walk,” he said, glancing at Meg and Adam, who shrugged and nodded, respectively. They turned back to their own business as Sam led Dean to the door.
The heavy clouds were still dripping red, and Sam canted his head up at them, blinking out from the shelter of the doorway. Gradually, the rain stopped, sky fading to a sunrise pink. Only then, did Dean follow, pointedly avoiding the gory puddles.
“So what’s with the...?” Dean fell in-step beside him, waving ambiguously at the atmosphere.
Sam stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Still getting the hang of things.”
“The Hell thing.”
Dean bobbed his head in an unspoken ‘And?’
“I’m sure you got the memo, Dean. Gates of Hell, closed. No more demon free-for-all.”
“You...you finished the Trials.”
Sam stopped in his tracks. The small hairs on the back of Dean’s neck prickled. The reptilian part of his brain recoiled and for just a heartbeat, Dean was terrified. He felt the fleeting wrongness of it all, as Sam squared his shoulders and took up more space.
“You wouldn’t let me do it,” Sam said, frowning. “I had to go without you, Dean. Shit, I didn’t want to, but you left me no choice! I get it, believe me; that’s you, that’s who you are. But it’s not who I am, so I asked Cas to help. And he said yes. We did it; we finished the Trials.”
Dean didn’t know whether to be furious or scorned. He settled for neither, just pushed brazenly forward. “Did you nuke Crowley?”
“Wasn’t easy. I had to do a little bargaining...with Death. He’s pretty pissed off with all the in-fighting. Angels, demons. So he was willing to help me in exchange for getting things a little closer to the status quo. Especially when I threw in sweet potato fries.”
Sam shrugged. “He thought it was quaint.”
He would. “So where’s Cas?”
“Upstairs. They’re still bickering. But at least I’ve got the demons under control. Wasn’t so tough, really. I mean, it’s still Hell, but demons aren’t that different from angels. They just want some direction, a cause. To be proud of a job well done.” Sam slid a cat-eyed look down at Dean. “You know how that is, right?” He started walking again, strolling really. Not a care in the world, nay, universe. “I gave them that.”
Dean stumbled on his words. His tongue felt too clumsy for his mouth. “Sam...”
“Oh, and you’ll like this. Crowley? I fed him to his own hellhounds.” A shadow of a smile passed over Sam’s face. “They gnaw him down to the bone every time.”
And there was that prickle again, that static-charged warning that something very bad might be crouching just beneath the surface.
“I’m saving Alastair for you, Dean.”
They walked wordlessly for a time, Dean digesting all the thoughts that were sitting in the pit of his stomach like inedible things, simply watching his brother. From certain angles, the sun would burn through the clouds and halo gold around Sam’s hair. He was clean-shaven and well-fed, a look Dean hadn’t seen in years. As much as it tortured Dean to think of Sam in Hell, actually a part of it, navigating it like natural selection, he almost wanted that for Sam if it made him feel this good, whole. This himself.
It was a dangerous thing to want, Dean knew.
They rounded the corner and the Impala stretched out before them on the street, dark spots of left-over rain on her chassis. Sam beamed when he saw her, sprinted ahead to run his palm over the hood. “Man, I missed her,” he said.
Dean wandered to the front fender and leaned there, found himself smiling. In spite of...everything. “She misses you.”
The surreal quiet swallowed up all but Sam’s voice. He looked over, so near Dean could see the small red flecks the rain had left on Sam’s cheekbone, the ghost of a dimple, and the hellfire in his eyes. “I miss you,” he said.
Dean’s heart kicked up, lifted in his chest, filling that fucking hole. He didn’t move as Sam rounded on him, tall and unshakable as dogma.
“I don’t have to ask permission,” Sam said, setting his hand on Dean’s shoulder, fingers so long his thumb brushed the divot of Dean’s throat. “But I will.”
Dean found himself leaning into Sam’s hand, cool with the rain. He was sure it left red wherever it touched.
“Just say yes,” Sam murmured.
Dean licked his own dry lips, kissed his life goodbye. “Yes.”
Smoke, viscous and moving willfully, drifted out of Sam’s mouth, past his slightly open lips, and through the scant air between them. It was black shot with red and crackling energy, a living dead thing, and it tingled when it brushed Dean’s own mouth, tasting of earth and ozone and ash. It piled down his throat and Dean choked with panic, but he clutched a fistful of Sam’s sweater and held on. His sinuses filled with the stuff, behind his eyes, in every passage of his body until his heart bloated with it.
Instantly, he understood Sam’s world. Freed from bone and sinew, luxurious with pain, he marveled at the wanton expanse of Hell’s purview. Sam shared with him all that was craved and craven. Nothing was beyond his—their—grasp. Creation unspooled before them, infinitely amazing. They would never be two halves again. Dean wanted this with the whole of his being.
And in that moment, Sam Winchester, the boy king, shared with his brother what it was to be a god.
Just as Dean drove away from Widow Jones Hollow, he realized he was not alone.
Sam couldn’t come with him, for all the reasons in the many planes of existence, and as much as Dean wanted Sam to take him to Hell, Sam would not.
Hell can wait. We both have a few things to take care of first, he’d said with such surety and calm. But soon.
Dean knew Sam was right. He knew it, just as he knew what Sam truly looked like now: the heat distortions of star-level combustion in his core, the otherworldly wings that soared out from his shoulders in diaphanous waves, the coils of horns and thorns he wore as a crown. And when Dean looked in the rearview mirror, his own eyes were black, black, black. Delicious black, black like the Impala and endless night. It suited him, he decided. It suited them both.
“Thanks, little brother,” he said to his reflection, grinning.
Anytime... came the reply, slipping through Dean’s thoughts effortlessly.