They had done it. Them. Dean and Sam had finally taken down Chuck. They had ended it,
When Dean had imagined this moment in his head, which he had admittedly done almost daily for months now, he never quite imagined it like this. Never Imagined that it would feel this hollow. In his mind, when this moment finally arrived, there would have been this insurmountable flood of relief pouring out of him. He would have felt right and his family… well his family would have celebrated. They would have held on to each other… united. Together. But this was unfortunately not the reality of the situation.
They had won, but it had cost them everything.
The hollow feeling stuck with him, clung to a place right under his sternum making each breath difficult as he drove Baby back to the Bunker. Sam’s mood seemed to fit with his - he was staring out the window, eyebrows creased. Neither of them said anything the whole way home.
The word somehow sat wrong, felt wrong. Home had never been a place to Dean, it had always been people. And for a long time, it had only been Sam. For nearly three decades, the only person who had ever brought him any semblance of joy and a feeling of security had been his brother. All he had ever needed was the car he was in now and the man sitting next to him. And for the longest time he hadn’t even believed that anyone else would be able to break into the fortress he had built around himself. He believed that the scene he was living right now, him and Sam driving in Baby was all he would ever need. That was until…
The name burned his brain, brought a pain so sharp and sudden that Dean jerked the car. Sam’s head twisted sharply, and he stared at Dean, eyes flooding with concern. But Sam didn’t say anything, just watched his older brother closely and Dean kept his eyes trained on the road. The part of him that always wanted Sam to think that things were okay, that he was fine, itched to put his brother at ease. But he could not do it. Not this time. He would not be able to say the words: I’m fine Sammy. He would not be able to stumble his way through the phrase that usually fell so easily from his lips. The words that would never be true again unless there was an angel in a trench coat in his eyesight. So, he didn’t say anything. He just drove.
He was Dean’s home too. There was no point in denying it. Not now, not after everything. And Dean could not even pinpoint exactly when it had happened, when the blue eyes pierced through the fortress around his battered and bruised heart. He couldn’t remember the exact day the walls crumbled, the moment Cas crossed the threshold and took his place next to Sam, like he had always belonged there. Like he had always been a part of the rawest crevices of Dean’s heart. But all Dean knew was that that part belonged to Cas now. And now that he was gone, now that he was in the Empty, he would never be whole again.
The Empty, where Cas was because of the genuine happiness he had experienced in living the truth. In being able to tell Dean…
“The one thing I want, is the one thing I know I can’t have,”
“Dammit” Dean yelled hitting the steering wheel, breaking the silence that had settled around the brothers, “Fucking dammit.” The words tore from Dean’s chest and he hit his head into steering wheel.
“Knowing you has changed me. Because you cared, I cared.”
The words seemed to echo throughout his being, hurting every nook and cranny it touched.
“Dean,” Sam said softly, “pull over man.”
Dean could barely hear him through the ringing in his ears and Cas’ voice as it echoed somewhere deep within him. Before now, he hadn’t had time to think about those last moments: about Castiel’s tear stained face, the relief and joy painting the angel’s features as he spoke the words, he had never felt that he would be able to say. Until now, Dean had been in survival mode, adrenaline coursing through his veins non-stop. But now that the imminent physical threat was gone, the emotional threat burst forward, clawing at Dean, demanding to be seen. The ringing in Dean’s ears turned deafening. His breath caught in his throat and his vision started to blur, an unnatural darkness mixing with the streetlamp lit night. He suddenly felt claustrophobic, the space in the car was too small, his skin was too tight.
He could not breathe.
“I love you,”
He could not breathe.
The darkness was bleeding inwards. In seconds, his vision would be completely gone. He felt Sam grab the wheel from him more than he saw it, felt the car veer off the road into a field. He pulled the car door open and fell out before the Impala had fully come to a rest – needing space, needing air. He hit the ground hard, the momentum propelling him forward and he could feel his shoulder screaming in protest as it popped out of place when he rolled straight into a tree.
“Jesus, Dean! Fuck,” he heard Sam from somewhere behind him. But his vision was so dark now he could barely see his hand in front him.
He still could not breathe.
And then there was something pulling him into a sitting position, his back leaning against something solid. He kept gulping for air, pulling in oxygen but no matter what he did, the air did not seem to reach his lungs.
“Dean you’re having a panic attack,” he heard from far away. He tried to make sense of the words, but they seemed to bounce off him.
“Dean you need to slow your breathing, you’re hyperventilating. I know it feels like you can’t breathe, but you can. You’re getting too much oxygen in.” Sam’s voice finally pierced through the fog in his brain. He held on to the familiar sound and followed his brother’s instructions. Slowly his breathing returned to normal as the panicked feeling bled out, leaving Dean feeling weak and shaky.
He huffed out a tight breath when he felt like himself again, Sam did not speak but placed his hand on his brother’s shoulder -solid and comforting. But Dean did not want comfort right now. Pain, anger and loss were mixing in a toxic burn in his stomach. He needed an out. He needed it to stop.
“What am I supposed to do?” Dean breathed out, and Sam tightened his hand on his shoulder.
“What am I supposed to do?” Dean asked louder, shrugging Sam off and standing up staring at the open sky above him.
“What am I supposed to do?” Dean screamed at the top of his lungs, agony ripping through him. He whirled on the tree his fist, attached to the arm whose shoulder was still in tact, connecting with the bark before he remembered giving his brain the command to do so.
“Dean, stop!” Sam cried behind him. But he could not, he would not. It felt so good, the agony in his shoulder and the agony in his fist as it continually connected with the rough bark were focal points, pulling him out of the tidal wave of emotions flooding through him. Dean did not know how to deal with the emotions eating at him, but he knew how to handle the physical sensations. He hit the tree another time, and he felt the bones splinter, the sound seeming to echo in the quiet night. But before he could hit it again, Sam grabbed him and pulled him back roughly.
“Dean stop”, Sam pleaded with his brother as he pulled him away. He nearly had Dean back to the car - a difficult feat as Dean was tearing forward, arms flailing, looking for something to swing at - when there was a shift. Dean stopped struggling and just slumped down, falling onto his knees in the dirt. Dean looked up at the endless sky, the midnight blue freckled with stars.
“What am I supposed to do?”
The lights of the bunker garage seemed too bright when the two brothers parked the car, Sam behind the wheel and Dean wiping at his knuckle with his flannel. Sam had given Dean some time after his break down, watched him from the hood of the Impala as tears had streamed down his face, while he silently stared at the sky. But it was late and they were close to the bunker and Sam wanted to get Dean’s hand set before the shock wore off. So, he had silently pulled his brother to his feet, popped his shoulder back in place, and coaxed him into the back seat of the car. Dean had followed mutely, eyes never leaving the stars. The remainder of the drive was as deathly kind of silent. Sam swallowed. Today should have felt like a celebration, like a victory. But instead, the whole experience felt empty.
A part of Sam knew that if he still believed in prayer like he had in his twenties, he would be thanking every celestial being out there that his brother was here with him, that they had both survived this. That they did not become the Cain and Able Chuck had so desperately wanted. The thought still made his stomach lurch, how close they had come to ending the story the way the writer intended. But that didn't happen. They escaped it, wrote their own way out. The victory, however, lacked the triumph it should have had and the gratitude for his brother was dulled slightly by the weight of their losses. He felt the absence of Jack and Cas acutely, the places where they were supposed to be somehow taking up more space now that they were empty. But he knew that Dean was going through something much deeper than he was.
They had never spoken about it, but Sam had known for a while that the way Dean felt about Cas was more than what he actively led on, it was more profound. Sam never told Dean that he noticed when Dean’s eyes followed Cas around the room like he was Dean’s True North, how he always stood a little too close and never asked for personal space anymore. He never mentioned how, when Cas disappeared for weeks on end, Dean would be moody at best and intolerable at worst, how during those times of absence, Sam would hear Dean in the Dean Cave until the early hours of the morning, his usual four hours dissolving into a combined two. How Dean only ever smiled or laughed when Cas was in the bunker.
They never spoke about it.
Just like they never spoke about the time when Sam was thirteen and he had walked in on Dean kissing another boy on his bed in a rented motel room somewhere in California. Sam had squeaked in surprise and Dean had thrown a pillow at him with a mumbled “getouttahere” his lips never leaving the stranger’s neck. Sam had waited outside on a bench near the vending machine with a chemistry book in his lap. When Dean arrived about thirty minutes later, he gently clapped the back of Sam’s head and told him to get into the car and that they had to go meet John in the next town over. Dean had said nothing but had given Sam a meaningful look. And Sam knew what it meant, “Don’t tell Dad. Don’t say anything.” So, he hadn’t, and Dean never brought it up again.
They never spoke about it, but Sam knew. Sam knew that Cas meant something to Dean that ran far deeper than what meets the eye. Sam thought back on the excruciating pain he had felt when he had found Eileen’s phone with her nowhere in sight. The realization that she was gone. Dean was going through that now, and unlike Sam, his story doesn’t seem to have a clear “happy ending” in sight. Sam got Eileen back. Dean was still without Cas. Eileen was on her way to him now, driving to the bunker as they sat there, and Dean was left starting at the sky with a faraway look in his eye.
Sam wiped his hand down his face, trying to think of the best thing to do for his brother. Dean was unnaturally quiet in the back seat. Sam killed the engine and climbed out, opening the door for Dean, who was cradling his injured hand.
“Kitchen,” Sam ordered and luckily Dean did not put up a fight. When they arrived, Sam pulled a beer out of the fridge and grabbed the first aid kit. He plunked the beer down in front of his brother who opened it absent mindedly.
After Sam had disinfected the wound and made a splint for Dean’s hand, he sighed heavily. Dean’s eyes darted to him questioningly. “You should probably go to the hospital tomorrow and get that checked out properly.” Dean nodded and agreed gruffly as got up and headed towards the passage, probably heading to his room. Sam, however, knew Dean would not be going the hospital anytime soon.
“Hey Dean,” Sam called again, his voice low. Dean turned towards him, his eyes weary and slightly vacant. Sam had never seen his brother like this.
“I know this is not how we wanted this to pan out. But you have your free will now. You’ve wanted this for so long. It’s okay to celebrate that, at least a little. Cas would want you too…” Sam stopped when he saw a muscle in Dean’s jaw tighten and twitch. Dean said nothing, just turned back to the passage. Sam saw it as a dismissal, sighed and started putting the first aid kit back together. When he moved to put the kit back in the cupboard, he was startled to see Dean still in the doorway, his back to him.
“Dean?” Sam asked gently,
Dean whirled on him, eyes more alive than it had been since he had told Sam and Jack about what had happened to Cas, “What’s the point of free will Sammy, if I don’t get to choose him? He is the only choice I want to make.” Dean, without waiting for a response, spun back into the hall and Sam heard the door to his room shut loudly.
Sam let out an uneven breath.
So, it looks like they were going to talk about it.