Locked away in the dark, Amara lives off scraps.
She encompassed multitudes, once; before her brother turned his back and told her she was nothing. He conjured stars out of void and she scattered them, galaxies in a single motion, motes of light trickling between her fingers.
Now, she takes what she can get. Brief flashes of human sensation felt through the connection of the Mark. Cain’s memories of working the soil. Dirt beneath his fingernails and green shoots poking up through the earth. His anger and his fear; Lucifer’s words gentle in his ear; and then only blood. So small a life, compared to what hers once was. Amara clings to it anyway, wringing every drop of feeling from the memories. She stretches them out over eons. They stretch thin.
Dean, when she first senses his mind, is a starburst of feeling. He contains multitudes. Deep abysses of love; supernovae of pain. Aches and hopes and fears that touch the horizon with light and spread long-fingered shadows. She travels his inner topography and finds it beautiful.
Once, her brother tried to impress her with what he had made. He showed her mountains whose summits touched fabricated clouds, canyons that stretched to dizzying (artificial) depths. She shrugged, not understanding, and said, “We live in infinity.” Then she gave a wave of her hand and it all fell to dust.
She thinks, perhaps, she understands now.
Sometimes, images surface from Dean’s memories and shine before her in the black. In an abandoned house in St Louis, a spell wraps dark tendrils around him and digs down into his past.
Amara sees a forest in muddy grays and blood-reds. She feels the weight of endless searching, how it wears on him, the slow ebb of his hope as he realizes Sam is not coming for him. She sympathizes. But in among it all, there’s something else.
No: somebody else.
Not human, and he makes no effort to hide what he is, approaching Dean with fangs bared. His presence, though, is steady and solid as anything in Creation. There is nothing of her brother’s making that Amara could not destroy with a touch—but when she sees Benny through Dean’s eyes, he is constant. More so than Dean’s absent brother, or his runaway angel; certainly more so than her own traitorous sibling.
With Benny at his side, Dean starts to shake off the burden of Sam’s absence. He lets himself feel hope in his hunt for Castiel. He is startled by laughter, finds himself smiling that wide, genuine smile that creases the corners of his eyes. At night, he truly sleeps, trusting Benny to keep the monsters at bay for a few hours.
He feels other things, too. Desires long-buried in the human world find their way to the surface here, with no audience to hide them from. Dean wakes from blurry dreams half-hard in his jeans and breathless, the image of blue eyes and large, capable hands still swimming before his eyes, the imagined scrape of a beard against his jaw not quite faded. He presses a hand to the spot where he felt it, then flushes in embarrassment.
If Benny notices, he’s kind enough not to mention it. He touches Dean more over the next few days, though. Lingers over the cleaning of a wound; clasps Dean’s hand a moment longer than necessary when he hauls him to his feet after their latest altercation with the local wildlife; leans in to swipe a smear of mud from Dean’s cheek with his thumb.
It takes Dean some time to decide to respond. Just taking what he wants seems too simple. He knows there is nothing in the world that is truly, only his; not without a price tag. Amara has never regretted her lack of a stake in her brother’s creation, but through Dean, she echoes with absence and doubt.
But Purgatory isn’t the world—or at least, not the world he knows. The things that would usually keep him hiding this part of himself are absent. There’s nobody here to judge him—or nobody whose opinion he cares for, anyway. If the monsters who attack them want to add a few more choice insults to their vocabulary, let them. It isn’t as though his brother or his father or his angel friend are around to look at him differently.
So the next time they take down a pair of monsters—shapeshifters, sloughing off skin and gristle as they hit the forest floor—Dean reaches down to help Benny up out of the mud, and he doesn’t let go.
Benny’s eyes on his face are careful. Dean swallows hard before he asks, “You wanna go clean up?”
He relies on his tone of voice, the one-sided quirk of his smile, to make the rest of the invitation for him. Even here, he isn’t sure he could put it into words. Benny hears him, though. Hears him, and inclines his head and grins and follows.
The river is cold but clean, the current slow enough that they can stand comfortably in waist-deep water. Benny doesn’t shiver at the cold, but the warm touch of Dean’s hands makes his eyes close, just briefly, in bliss.
Purgatory doesn’t allow time to truly relax; but still they find time to be gentle with one another, and a relief Dean had not anticipated washes over him. Their touches are urgent but never rough, soft open-mouthed kisses warming Dean from within. He hasn’t seen the sun in months, but when they move against one another in the dark, he stops feeling the cold for a little while.
Benny offers loyalty and demands nothing of him. Dean tries not to think about it too hard, afraid that it will stop being real if he does.
The spell takes the memories and twists them. With Benny’s face, it stalks him through imagined trees. With Benny’s voice, it tries to trick the life out of him.
Amara would hold onto him anyway, would never let go her one connection to the world—but Dean feels the wrongness of it right away. The hallucination tells him to kill himself, and, “I’d do it,” he says. “If I really had to. I would. But the real Benny would never let me.”
He kills the hallucination dead. Through the connection, Amara feels the ache of absence, but it does not hurt. Benny is lost, but Dean still trusts him more than he hates himself.
Even after the spell is ended, the memories fascinate her. She turns them over and over in her mind. Her brother’s love was always conditional, and she did not know it could be different. Dean is hers now but, should she ever meet Benny Lafitte, she will thank him.
Much later—after her prison is shattered; after she grows up and learns to walk among humans—she visits Dean in dreams.
The souls she has consumed provide acceptable fuel, but they sit uneasily within her. There is so much pain in them, such chaos of feeling.
Dean was no different when she first touched his mind—likely is no different now—but she misses him. Perhaps it is simply that she was the first soul she had touched in so many lifetimes. Perhaps that is all.
Still, when she comes upon him sleeping, relief washes over her like water.
For a moment she holds still and watches him. Then her presence seems to register with him and he sits up, eyes wide and startled in the dark, fumbling under his pillow for something. She’s distracted for a moment by how he blinks his way back to consciousness, by the way the sheets slip down his torso, the vulnerability of his bare feet.
There’s a metallic gleam in the dim light. She realizes he is pointing a gun at her.
Amara looks at him curiously. “You know that won’t hurt me.”
“I can still try.” His voice is rough, as much with sleep as with anger, she thinks. She smooths down her skirt and sits on the bed. As she expected, he doesn’t shoot—or call for his brother.
“Is that any way to greet a visitor?”
“I didn’t shoot you. I’d say that counts as red carpet treatment, seeing as you’re the big evil and all.”
A memory, not her own, seizes her. What, no thanks for saving your hide? Benny standing over him, fanged and blood-splattered and unfamiliar. The first moment they met. Dean scowling back. Sure, I won’t shove this up your ass.
Benny had had something to offer him, of course. Amara has nothing he wants—or anyway, nothing he will admit to wanting. She has patience, however, and so she offers him a smile. “You’ll change your mind about me, Dean,” she says. “Once you let yourself know me.”
“Pretty sure I know enough.”
He doesn’t resist when she takes his hand, though, nor when she brushes its callouses with the pad of her thumb. But there is nothing easy in his stillness. Dean is strung up tight, trembling a little under his bravado, and that is not what Amara wants. She lets his hand drop and caresses his cheek instead, sending him to sleep with a dark pulse of her power. The gun falls harmlessly from his hand.
Dean will dream of nothing; and when he wakes, he will not remember that she was here.
Before she leaves, though, Amara pauses. Nothingness is peaceful enough. She has craved it since her brother started making worlds. But Dean’s peace consists in other things—and those she can offer him, temporarily at least.
She leans in and touches his forehead, and Dean dreams of Purgatory.
Later, she kisses him in an empty field outside Fall River while his brother opens a line to Hell. Heaven turns what is left of its power upon her, and by the time she recovers, there is an archangel walking the Earth in the guise of Dean’s best friend, and he is distracted.
His thoughts beat inside his skull with dark, frantic wings. Amara feels them, but they are fainter than they were when Dean bore the Mark, and she can no more hold onto them than Dean could hold stars in his mortal hands. She would calm him if she could.
They come after her again, her brother and her nephew. After all this time, they still do not understand.
She fights on anyway. Perhaps it is not they whose understanding she needs.
And Dean comes to her, at last, bright with terrible power. He has been sent to destroy them both.
He doesn’t. Still, he holds back from pulling the trigger, and they talk. She sits with hands folded in her lap amid the greenery, the life she cannot touch, and he offers her a way back. Understanding, as the sun dies above their heads.
She wants to give him something in return. Restore something, for what he has restored to her.
Her first thought is for Mary. The original loss, and one she cannot comprehend. She has never known what it is like to have a mother.
The reach of her power is halfway to Heaven—and then a thought makes her stop.
Parents, after all, do not always look kindly on their children. They do not always give their children peace. Dean’s memories of his father are fraught with nerves and resentment. Millions of humans pray to her brother each day, calling him Father and receiving no answer for their pains.
Amara changes her mind, and she reaches out to pluck a soul from a different world.
Dean’s head spins as he stumbles through the trees.
He just talked down the fucking Darkness. And now they’ve both split, her and Chuck, and the souls are gone, and the whole thing feels like some whacked-out dream. Dean wouldn’t believe it himself, only he’s still standing and there’s still good solid dirt under his boots, so he guesses it’s either accept that he just saved the world with talking or accept that he’s finally gone cuckoo.
He doesn’t know where the hell he is, or how he’s gonna get back to the bunker, but he figures he’s gotta come to a road sooner or later. Meantime, it’s actually kind of comforting, just picking a direction and tramping through the trees. One foot in front of the other. Simple. Still dark enough he has to concentrate on where he’s walking, though—and that’s a damn good thing, because it stops him worrying about what happens if the God Twins change their minds. Or about what Amara meant when she said she wanted to give him something, because that sure as hell sounds like another shoe that’s gonna drop and then kick him in the ass.
Dean scowls and concentrates on the ground, narrowly avoiding stumbling over a twisted root. Now if it was a little lighter, if there was a pack of vamps or skinwalkers or some other kind of supernatural fuglies stalking him through the trees, it would be just like—
His heart almost stops.
He’s tried not to think about Benny. Since he went back to Purgatory (Dean still can’t think died, not even inside his head, most of the time), Dean’s tried not to. But since the whole Werther box thing he’s tried harder. He’d been so damn close to giving in, but even if the sensible part of his brain knew death would be a goddamn mercy, he still couldn’t picture Benny saying that crap and meaning it. And for a moment there, he’d remembered how the real Benny had always looked at him—like he was True North, some kind of guiding star—and still stepped back without fighting when Dean let him down. He hadn’t argued. Had just trusted Dean to have his reasons.
Benny trusted him. Benny thought he was good, Dean’s pretty sure. Only then the spell had ended, and he came back to himself with the Mark throbbing on his arm, and he remembered that whatever Benny had thought of him, Dean wasn’t that guy anymore.
But the Mark’s gone, and Amara’s gone, and now Benny’s standing in front of him, blinking like he doesn’t have any more clue what’s going on here than Dean does.
Dean swallows hard, his throat dry, but he manages a nod. “Yeah. ’S me.”
There are a billion questions he should be asking, but before any of them make it out of his mouth, Benny’s stepping forward and pulling him into a hug and not letting go. Dean closes his eyes and exhales hard, just going with it for a second. It feels like he’s been holding his breath for months. Years, maybe.
Benny still smells like Purgatory, dank and bloody and like it’s about to rain, even though it never actually does. Dean buries his face in the collar of Benny’s jacket and inhales like there's no tomorrow, which is fucking hilarious if you think about it.
Amara’s words ring in his head again, then. You gave me what I needed most. I want to do the same for you.
Okay, maybe the other shoe’s gonna drop in a moment here. Maybe when he opens his eyes it’ll all be gone, smoke and mirrors. But right now, right now, he’s pretty sure this is it.
So he lets himself feel it—everything instead of nothing. It feels like peace.