though my eyes could see i still was a blind man
though my mind could think i still was a mad man
i hear the voices when i'm dreaming,
i can hear them say
There is an insurmountable chasm between them.
Dean would like to say he doesn’t know how it came to be, but that wouldn’t be true. It’s been years in the making – every situation and hurdle and catastrophe has forced it open, wider and wider, until there simply was no going back.
Dean knows most of it is his fault. He’s the one who had to be saved from being a demon. He was the one who let Gadreel in. He came out of Purgatory to derail Sam’s finally normal life, he didn’t save Bobby, he couldn’t help Sam when Lucifer was frying his brain, he couldn’t get Sam out of the cage. Dean made the deal with a demon. Dean almost died and made them lose Dad.
Dean pulled Sam out of college to go hunting.
He pours himself another glass of whiskey. Even though the bottle is almost empty, it’s not enough because it still hurts. It still kills him, this distance. The days become weeks, the weeks morph into months, and then suddenly it’s going on two years and they haven’t spoken, not once. Sam is the only family he has, Sam is his brother, but even that doesn't change the situation.
Tears sting his eyes and he downs the alcohol, wishing it would burn.
There is an impossible ravine separating him from his brother.
Sam would like to be able to say there is a way to build a bridge over it. If there really is, however, he doesn’t know about it. Doesn’t believe there is one – there simply has been too much. It fills every part of him: the memories and guilt and anger and hurt, in uneasy, swaying amounts. Dean is all that’s left of his family, and yet...
He knows he should forgive and forget. Knows he’s as much to blame for the splintering, the shattering – the yelling, the leaving. After all, he was the one who didn’t complete the trials. He was the one who didn’t look for Dean when he disappeared. He was the one who went crazy, who ran around without a soul, who let Lucifer out. He was the one with the demon blood, the addiction to demon blood, and the one who died in the first place.
He was the one who didn’t stay and save Jessica.
Sam scrubs his shaking hands over his face. He tries to swallow against the ache in his chest, but it won’t ease no matter what he does. He’d appreciate staying in the bunker more if it weren’t so damn empty.
Dean intends to call, of course he does. He means to apologize. He can’t live without Sam, his brother, not really – and isn’t that the very thing that brought him here?
But it’s just that there is always something that comes up. There is always a distraction, and then there is always the crippling guilt that he has caused this rift. That there simply is no way to make up for it, not ever, let alone a paltry little apology in the form of pained small talk and probably a stupid joke.
He’s spent a lot of time staring at his phone, trying to summon the words he could say should he dial. Once, he settles down with a beer, which turns into two, which becomes six or seven or so, and then he dials Sam’s number. He sits there with his mouth open and the words jamming in his throat and he does not want to sob or leave a message crying, and he haltingly chokes out, “I miss you.”
When he sets his phone down he realizes he’s merely dialed and never hit send, and he loses all courage to try again.
Sam wants to call too. There are a lot of hours wasted pacing and sighing and running over fifty-one-hundred-and-one things to say and how to say them. He dials his brother’s number more often than he’ll admit, and even twice he’s hit send. Both times he hastily ends the call before it even connects.
He can’t do it, and he knows it. He’s always been the coward. At least this way, not following through on a terrible little phone call is something Dean will never know about. Sam doesn’t have to let him down – what Dean doesn’t know won’t hurt him (and isn’t that what has gotten Sam here in the first place?).
Besides, it’s not like Dean has called him. The terrible, bitter part of Sam tells him it’s because he’s not needed. For all Dean’s past declarations, this is proof, Sam decides, and the thought is as acrid and vile as a mouthful of engine oil. This is proof that Dean doesn’t need Sam as much as he tried to make his brother believe.
If he did, he’d have called by now.
The Battle for Earth begins. Heaven is collapsing – it’s been empty too long, filled only occasionally with the corrupt like Metatron, intent on morphing the sanctuary into a miserable playground. Hell is expanding – the demons crawl out from every crevice, pouring across the globe and waging war with the angels, both pure and no longer holy.
Somewhere, Dean hears about Castiel creating another army of angels. He dimly hope this one works for him. Almost wants to call him, too. But after the way they parted, when Dean was still a demon… No. It’s better that Dean stays away. He can’t bear to see his former friend look at him like that again. It’s not quite as wretched as the way Sam last looked at him, but it’s damn close.
Dean would rather stay out of this newest war, but it’s not long before it’s clear that this is the apocalypse. And hey, he’s stopped one before, right?
Sam pours himself into research because he doesn’t quite know what else to do. With demon armies and angel armies and no one talk to, he feels hopelessly, hilariously out of his depth. He’s a tiny, tiny human and what the hell difference can he possibly make? He’s screwed up enough for a few lifetimes, thank you very much.
But if this… Stone of Vretiel can really seal the gates of Heaven and Hell once and for all, maybe Sam can find it. Maybe he can make a difference, and atone for all that he’s done wrong. Maybe he can finish this and Dean will be able to forgive him once he’s gone.
Somewhere, he hears that Cas was killed in battle. He doesn't want to believe it’s true, but the more time that passes without a word or a sign, the more Sam decides it must’ve been true. He wishes he could’ve said goodbye.
The sky is on fire, or so it appears. The ground cracks and shakes, coming apart at the seams as unnatural forces try to rip each other apart on its surface. Lightning forks across clouds of fiery red and charcoal black, and thunder bellows through the smoky air.
They’ve come here separately, each with their own plan to save the world – it just so happens that their plans coincide. Some part of Dean who has never believed in fate and all that crap, wonders if it really is destiny that he should end up on this battlefield, only to discover his brother fighting in the chaos too.
Sam, who has played jump rope with the line of whether he buys into destiny or not, is overwhelmed by the same feeling when he catches a glimpse of his brother slashing down enemies.
When they reach each other, the years fall away, disintegrating in the face of the literal end of the world. Dean can’t remember who speaks first, and Sam doesn’t care, only that they are there, facing each other, and it’s let me help you and you figured it out too and so, the apocalypse, huh?
The war for the Earth tears and rips and screams around them. Heaven battles Hell, as it was from the beginning of time, and so fittingly at what might very well be the end of it. Sam grasps the Stone of Vretiel, and Dean leads the way towards the moderate hill, atop which the stone structure containing the altar is located.
At the bottom of the rise, the brothers spare each other a glance, and there is an unspoken understanding: that this is it, once and for all. Should they succeed, Heaven and Hell will each be sealed permanently, and the boys would likely die. For one, final, eternal time.
It is difficult to get purchase on the rocks and scorched grass while the ground shivers beneath their tired feet, but Sam and Dean press on wordlessly – it is too loud to be heard, and they do not waste time with words. They cannot miss their window of opportunity.
The closer they get to the altar, the stronger the wind kicking up around them begins to blow, until they are using nearly all their strength to fight against it. Rocks tumble down the hillside past them, and they stumble and fall. Dean helps Sam back to his feet, and moments later, Sam yanks his brother out of the way of a sudden onslaught of rocks.
The magic protecting the mausoleum is shattering.
The sky crackles with violent bursts of lightning amongst the smoke and smoldering ash. The thunder roars, syncopated by screams from the battle raging ceaselessly below. Debris slashes at Sam and Dean’s clothes, cuts at their skin, and the dirt and sand and dust sting at their eyes.
Sam leans towards Dean for support, struggling for breath, his knuckles white as he clutches the Stone. Dean grasps his brother’s arm, repeating the incantations in his mind endlessly. They each draw strength from the other as they forge on, fighting the elements – fighting, still fighting, always fighting.
At the top of the rise, surrounded by crumbling walls, is the altar. It looks as mild and unremarkable as any old piece of ancient ruins in a textbook snapshot. It is a struggle for Sam and Dean to stay standing with the forces of nature so in turmoil around them. Sam grits his teeth and forces his body another step forward. Dean stands behind him to use his strength to help his brother make it the last ten feet. He begins saying the words he has memorized.
The skin on Sam’s hand begins to crack and peel back as he brings the Stone hovering over the splintering grey altar. He roars in pain and Dean braces himself, speaks faster, shuts his eyes. Sam makes one last push, slamming the Stone down onto the altar’s surface. The explosion is blinding and deafening and instantaneous, flinging the pair back against the crumbling mausoleum walls.
The wind disappears, and the altar begins to glow and pulse with white light. A steady roar of indescribable noise rumbles low, begins rising and thrumming…
Dean pants, hardly daring to believe they made it, and leans his head back. He waits for the end. Waits for the thing to blow – any second now, any second now.
Sam gulps at the air and clutches his burning, bleeding hand. His face is cut and bruised and tear-streaked. He turns to look one last time at his brother, and is filled with strange, overwhelming relief. He can see the emotion matched on Dean’s slack, dirty features.
“Jerk,” he whispers, his vision blurring with tears. This is it…
Dean cracks a smile, his own eyes shining. It’s okay, it’s over…
“Bitch,” he returns hoarsely. He slides his arm around Sam in an awkward one-armed hug and they lean together until their heads touch.
The altar explodes.
Blue and white light create a dazzling fireball on the far hillside. The shockwave is so intense that every vessel is knocked off their feet, no matter their position in the battle. The bodies call out, scattered and injured. With a cacophony of cries, the beings inside are compelled to exit their vessels. A chasm opens in the earth: a dark, empty pit. Far above in the angry sky, the clouds part to reveal a circle of brilliant light.
Swirls of blue, glowing matter mix with columns of black smoke as angels and demons are expelled from their vessels, drawn up or down. The blue light dance and weave towards the clouds, while the smoke rushes and pours and twists violently into the pit.
Mere seconds later, the clouds roll and curl over the white light, and the ground shifts and covers the pit.
Heaven and Hell are permanently sealed.
The bodies of the Winchesters are found on the hillside, near a massive crater where the altar of Araqiel used to be. They are cremated and laid to rest in an undisclosed location.
As the world rebuilds, the Winchester Gospels become widely circulated, just as a certain angel once declared they would be.
carry on my wayward son
there'll be peace when you are done
lay your weary head to rest
don't you cry no more