They knew the life wouldn’t always be for them. Saving people, hunting things. The family business, as Dean would say. Age was an inevitability they were both all too aware of. Sam brought up retirement one time but his concerns were joked about and never mentioned again. Frankly, neither of them could imagine doing anything else at this point.
When Sam saw his forty-fifth birthday come and go it felt as if they had been hunting forever. They weren’t the same fresh-faced boys who had set out over two decades ago in search of a missing father. Dean was growing near to fifty and it was showing in the lines creeping around his face like a spider’s web and the silver threading through his hair. Sam had let his own hair grow ragged and long, not a fashion choice but out of a disregard for personal appearance. Age was the inevitability they hadn’t dared think of. It was a rare sight that a hunter lived to see even forty. It would make them old men in a young men’s game. Frankly, neither of them had imagined living this long.
None of the mystery of the afterlife remained for them. Heaven, Hell, between the two of them they had already been there and back. They knew what was waiting for them on the other side. A long asphalt road, the hum of a motor, and fireworks in the night. Some might not call that Heaven, but it was theirs and they couldn’t imagine a better place.
Death came to them as they expected, in the middle of a job, the smell of gunpowder in the air. It was a routine task, a restless spirit. The years were catching up with them. It was a job they had done a thousand times, but they were careless that time and overstepped themselves.
The spirit went for Sam first. Even to after all these years, Dean played the older brother, pushing himself between them, gun blazing as fast as the curse words flew out of his mouth. Sam still took the brunt of the blow but he recovered after a few seconds. They fought together like a well-oiled machine, covering each other and moving like a left hand knew the right.
When they found themselves losing ground, they knew they were in trouble. They were both bleeding pretty heavily by that point. Sam knew they were beyond retreat. They would finish this even if it killed them. They were the Winchesters. They had saved the entire world, they weren’t going to leave that world with this spirit if they could help it. They burned the remains, the spirit vanished in a satisfying rush of fire, and they were left slumped against the wall.
Dean wheezed a laugh as he held the pieces of his shredded skin together with steady fingers. “You okay, Sammy? You’re lookin’ kind of bad.”
“No worse than you.” Sam said weakly. He watched the blood pool into his hand and released his grip on his wounds. “So this is it.” Dean could have made it out of there, but Sam had learned after all of these years his brother would stick with him until the very end. “Do you think Ash’ll find us once we’re, you know, up there?”
It took a lot of effort, but Dean shifted so they were side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, with their backs to that dusty wall. “He’d better or I’ll hunt him down myself. There’s no way I’m spending an eternity with just your sorry face to keep me company.” He shuddered involuntarily at a new wave of pain.
Sam’s eyes turned misty. “Maybe mom will be there. I’d… like to meet her for real this time.”
“It doesn’t matter where she is. We’ll find her, promise.” Dean said with as much determination as he could. “Bobby, too.”
Sam tried to laugh but found he couldn’t. “I’d like to see what his idea of Heaven is. Beer as far as the eye can see.” A sharp intake of breath took hold of his entire body and he fell silent. “Dean?” One last sigh of a breath, relaxation, and his head slumped over onto Dean’s shoulder.
“Yeah?” Tears that he had been holding back for Sam’s sake spilled over Dean’s eyes. “I’d like to see that. Beer as far as the eye can see.” He raised a bloody hand to grasp tightly at his brother’s neck. He looked forward with the last of his resolve. The moon was shining through the window, illuminating the Reaper standing before him. “Goodnight, Sammy,” he said as quietly as he could, as if the body next to him were only sleeping.
Darkness, fireworks in the night. Red and the smell of gunpowder in the air. The hiss of a cooling engine and two brothers driving somewhere, wherever the road took them. On the radio, there was a faint crackle that murmured, “Welcome home, boys.”