Dean’s heart beats for the last time, and he braces himself, prepared for the first licks of hellfire. Cas promised, as they rushed Dean into the operating room, to come find him, no matter where he wound up. Dean took his angel at his word, but he hopes Cas takes his sweet time. He needs-no deserves- his forty lashes; a time-out in the crucible, to finally burn away all the shit from his sorry excuse of a life.
Dean waits for the ragged edge of a blade. Instead, there’s the soft hum of a cello.
His senses return, one at a time. The warm thrum and pull of the music is offset by the splash and gurgle of water against metal. The ocean, provides Dean’s mind helpfully, against the hull of a ship. Dean feels the corrugated steel under his hands and the rough welding joints against his back. He thinks he knows where he is, and like a punch to the gut Dean realizes who is playing the last sonorous notes that echo through the safe-houseboat.
“Not bad, right?” a young, achingly familiar voice asks, “Turns out when your mom’s not forcing you to go to lessons, cello can be…kinda nice.”
Dean’s sight returns before his voice.
“Good to see you, Dean,” Kevin Tran greets him, eyes bright, “Welcome to Heaven.”
“Heaven?” Dean coughs out at last, “But I-you-“
Kevin shrugs good-naturedly, offering Dean a hand up from the floor of Garth’s borrowed safe house.
“Yeah, you fucked up one or two things,” he admits, “But we’re family. Right?”
“Yeah,” Dean agrees, eyes burning, “Fuck yes, of course.”
Dean was afraid to touch him, but the press of Kevin’s hand is solid. Dean needs more proof, and a hard grip on Kevin’s shoulder turns into a hug before he realizes. Kevin is…Kevin is good, Dean realizes as he thumps a palm against his friend’s back before pulling away, blinking away his tears. He looks happy, and his skin lost the pallor Dean was always worried about in the bunker, and his eyes…well they’re brown and forgiving and there. Kevin’s lack of anger carves away more of Dean’s guilt than any demon’s knife could have managed.
“It’s okay,” Kevin assures him, “I’m okay. I’m great actually. But we’ve gotta get going.”
“Going?” Dean repeats dumbly.
“Yeah,” Kevin answers, smirking, “This is just the mudroom. There’s a whole bunch of people upstairs who’ve been waiting a long time to see you.”
Dean follows Kevin up the stairs of the boat. Just before they reach the steel door, Kevin turns.
“Oh yeah,” he remembers, Dean staring up at him in wonder, “Cas says to tell you him and Sam will be here before you know it.”
Dean grins, ruffles Kevin’s hair, and leads the way outside.