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save the world tomorrow (save you today)

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Dean gasps as the last soul is extracted from his body, nearly doubling over in relief. A great weight has been lifted off of his chest—both literally and figuratively—and he nods at Chuck gratefully, still suffering from whiplash too much to speak. Chuck and Amara join hands, and Amara smiles at Dean one last time, before they both dissolve: Chuck into a brilliant blue light, and Amara into a thick, dark cloud. The two intertwine, spiraling around each other as they ascend to the heavens. Dean is suddenly reminded of a candy cane; if he had voiced his thoughts while Sam was around, he’d probably have been accused of ruining the moment.

Shit, Sam!

Dean mentally slaps himself. Sam doesn’t know he’s alive—and neither does Cas. He frantically looks around the garden, searching for a payphone or something, only to come face-to-face with an old woman, who’s gaping at him. She’s got a bag of birdseed in her hand, but her grip is slack, and the contents are spilling all over; she doesn’t seem to notice. Dean clears his throat and smiles thinly, trying to appear as non-threatening as possible.

“You got a phone?”

 

Sam enters the bunker, shoulders hunched and eyes downcast, and he high-tails it to his room, painfully aware of Cas’s gaze searing through him. He sags in relief as soon as his door closes behind him, flopping face down onto the bed. His eyes are dry, which is unexpected; part of him wishes he was crying so he could somehow express the gaping, gnawing hole in his stomach that grows bigger with every passing second, but the tears don’t come. If he had the energy to, he’d scream into his pillow, throw stuff around, maybe break a mirror, but right now all he wants to do is sleep.

It seems that he can’t even be granted that small mercy. After lying there for what feels like hours (Sam’s clock says it’s only been a few minutes), he rolls over, facing the ceiling, and counts the rotations of his fan until he can almost forget that when (if) he leaves his room Dean won’t be there.

 

You shouldn’t do this, Castiel’s conscience (which sounds an awful lot like Dean, if he’s honest with himself) admonishes as he pushes open the door to Dean’s room. He’d wanted to go after Sam, but he knows the pain of losing a brother, and he’s decided it’s best to leave him alone for a bit. If Dean was here, he’d be pissed at Cas’s snooping (he still doesn’t know when he started to refer to himself as ‘Cas’; it’s another reminder of his dear friend that stabs him in the gut—metaphorically, which is apparently important). There’s so many if Dean was statements that he can make, and he thinks he understands why humans have such a hard time letting go of their deceased, what with their languages enabling this so well.

He scans the room, marveling at how Dean it is. It’s almost like a piece of his soul—still, after all these year, the most brilliant soul he’s ever known—has attached itself to this room. Being here isn’t quite like staring at it; it’s more like looking at it through a foggy mirror. But it’s Dean, and that’s all he can ask for now.

 

Dean thanks the old woman for the umpteenth time in the past hour as she pulls up into her driveway, her rickety old car coughing and sputtering like a sick guy.

“Anything for the young man who saved the world,” she coos, and he’s suddenly reminded of the whole fiasco with Mildred; really, why are elderly women so attracted to him? He nods, averting his eyes and exiting the car, holding the door open for her. She hadn’t brought her phone with her (“I’m so forgetful, you know women my age!”), so she’s going to let him use her house phone.

“Thank you so much,” he says yet again as he dials up the telephone (one of those old-timey phones that has the circular dial). “Really. You’re…wow, you’re awesome.” The old woman nods and pats his cheek, smiling a tad bit too knowingly for his taste.

“I know you’ve got someone real important to call, honey,” she says, winking before chuckling to herself and leaving the room to give him privacy.

 

Castiel’s fingers gently trace the photo of Dean and his mother. He marvels at the pure joy radiating from both of them, so obvious even the camera picked it up. Part of him, inexplicably, would always wish that he could be the cause of that joy; and now, all of him definitely wishes he still had the chance. He picks up the quiet, yet harsh ringing of the bunker’s phone through the door. They’ve never used it before, and he’s suddenly struck with a jolt of fear. If someone was calling the bunker, something bad must have happened; like, the-sun-is-dying bad. He carefully puts the photo back in its place and leaves Dean’s room, calling out.

“Sam.”

No response. The phone rings yet again. Sighing to himself, he heads over to the receiver and picks it up, bracing himself for the worst.

He nearly drops it when he hears Dean’s voice.

 

“Fuckin’ finally!” Dean groans into the receiver, shoulders sagging. “It’s me, Dean, I’m alive, Chuck’s alive, the universe isn’t going to die, I know it’s a lot to explain but— “

“Dean?” whispers Cas into the receiver, cutting him off immediately. Dean is suddenly reminded of the short time in which Cas was human, because dammit, that voice did not belong to a power celestial being.

“Yeah, buddy,” he sighs, running a hand through his hair. “I’m here.”

 

Sam is roused from his grief-induced stupor by Cas, who barks,

“Sam! Get up, Dean’s alive!”

He falls out of bed, legs tangled in the sheets, and he’s got a nasty bruise on his shoulder, but he doesn’t care because holy shit Dean’s alive?

He bursts out into the hallway with all the grace of a newborn foal, coming face-to-face with Cas, who’s grinning ear-to-ear and holding a phone receiver towards him. Shakily, he takes it and holds it up to his ear, breath caught in his throat.

“…Dean?”

“Sammy? Thank god, are you okay? You didn’t do anything stupid while I was gone, did you?”

Sam can’t stop the relieved laugh that forces itself out of his chest, surprising him, nor can he stop the tears that finally decide to show up. He’s pretty sure Dean is crying a little bit too, and even Cas sheds a tear, still smiling like an idiot.

“We’re going to be okay,” he gasps, in between sob-laughs. “We’re going to be okay.”