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This Is How It Ends

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It ends this way.
Not with an apocalypse between Heaven and Hell, or even the Darkness. It ends with a case that goes wrong.
And right. Depends on your opinion.
It ends with Sam breaking his leg and Cas saving Dean’s ass. Again.
It ends with them in the bunker, on a snowy night, beaten to hell and vaguely content because they killed the damn thing.
A Wendigo. Later, they'll consider that it's kismet. Full circle and all of that.
It ended with an angry angel and a bottle of Jack and an ultimatum.
It ended as quietly as it began.
But it didn't really end. It just began again.

 

They had quit hunting. The boys were men now and in their mid forties and as Castiel said--firmly and often--it was not their responsibility to save the world. They had their turn--a few times--and it was time to rest.
To be.
Dean laughed and called it, almost mocking, apple pie life.
But Cas saw the quiet longing in Sam’s eyes and the edge of want in Dean’s voice.
Not that it mattered. Dean would hunt until something killed him, and it would and that--that pushed Castiel actions.

 

“You have to stop,” he said against the hunter's chest and Dean didn't even pretend he didn't know what Cas was talking about. He knew. The same thing that Cas had been saying for weeks now.
Quit hunting.
“Why? What makes it someone else's job, Cas?”
“What makes it yours,” he snaps back.
Even Chuck had said they deserved to rest. To be happy.
“Dean, you will get Sam killed. Maybe not this time or next or even after that. But one day you'll do something wrong and you won't get there in time and he'll die. And we can't fix it again.”
Not since Dean killed Death.
“You aren't playing fair,” Dean says.
They both know Sam is Dean’s weak spot.
“Not playing at all,” Cas sighs and Dean props up on an elbow to stare at him. Frowns.
“You really mean it. You want us to quit.”
“I don’t want to bury you,” the angel says, softly.
And between that, and the reminder that someday Sam will die, Dean agrees.

 

At first, it’s strange. To wake up and not be needed. To not be in the Impala, hunting.
To be.
They’ve spent so much of their lives doing just that, this new normal is anything but. And then Jody calls--Claire and Alex need help.
It’s not a hunt. Not really, because they aren’t hunting anything.
But the girls come to the bunker, and Dean does this thing. Sam laughs and tells Cas he’s in brother mode, and Cas eyes his hunter with concern and then, pride.
Because Dean, with his gruff words and snark and veiled compliments, is teaching them. Shaping the girls to be what he was. What Sam was.
The girls stay for six months.
And when they leave--two more come.

 

Sam isn’t a teacher. Not that he couldn’t be. Cas thinks it’s more that he doesn’t want to be. He’s always been the one who was taught, the one who followed where Dean led them, the one who pushed back against authority and soaked up every bit of lore that he could find.
He’s in the kitchen with Cas, when it happens.
The phone rings, and it’s Kate, the werewolf they never killed, and she’s hunting something.
Which, as turns of events go, is pretty fucking twisted.
Sam sighs into the phone and hangs up and then, while Cas watches, he limps out of the kitchen and down the hall, to where the lore is scattered in the library.
It’s not the last call. After he tells Beth how to kill the djinn, Claire calls--a few weeks later--with a question about shifters. They trickle in at first. Slow but there.
Until it’s what Sam does. He spends his days in the library, with a golden retriever he found while jogging, that he names Gabe.
Castiel doesn’t find that amusing, but Dean laughs for days.

 

Sometimes, when the phone lines go quiet and there is no one to train--not often, but sometimes--they climb into the Impala, and chase the sunrise.
It’s not to hunt. It’s not because they have anywhere they have to be, any battle they have to fight.
It’s simply because they can.
And Castiel smiles, in his quiet way, curled against the backseat with Gabe as Dean sings.

 

He bakes. He learns he likes to cook, likes to have that for Sam and Dean, when they day is over and they crawl out of the library and training room. He makes pie, often, this ooey gooey caramel apple pie that Dean swears is divine, despite Cas’s assurance that heaven doesn’t have pie.
Dean says that means they’re in the right place after all.
And Cas smiles while Dean steals a kiss and curls tighter into him as they watch a movie and Sam falls asleep and they retreat to their bedroom, which is the only heaven he wants, these days.

 

Sometimes, Crowley comes by. The first time, there's a pair of hunters being taught by Dean, while Cas calls lazy suggestions.
Then the King of Hell is there and the brother and sister lurch into motion, swinging into an attack.
They learn that retired doesn't mean soft, not when it comes to Dean Winchester and his angel. The hunters in training are pinned and disarmed before Crowley can say anything about hospitality these days, shocked by the gentle angel turned feral and the furious energy rippling off Dean.
He dismisses them, and greets the King like an old friend.
He stays for hours, closeted away with Sam and Cas and Dean. When he leaves, Sam walks him out and the hug they share is a little longer than is appropriate. They get questions. Of course they do. Sam ignores them. Cas says simply, better the devil you know.
And Dean says, evenly, his voice as deadly as it ever was, touch him and I'll kill you myself. Demon or no, he gets a pass.

 

They have history and a reputation and as the years spin out, it grows.
And they're happy.
If some days, Sam sits outside with Gabe and talks to himself.
If Dean disappears some weeks, to a college town where a brown haired young man named Ben lives.
If Cas sometimes watches the sky and cries, silent shaking sobs as he watches something neither brother can see.
Well.
Nothing is perfect and they carry their own scars. But.
But they are happy.

 

This is how ends.
Years later.
When the stories have a cult following and the brothers are spoken of with reverent whispers. Gabe goes first, old and tired. Sam sobs as they bury his dog, and Dean tries to ignore how old his brother looks.
Sam is next.
Crowley comes when they burn the body, and Dean watches the King break down. He doesn’t, not until they are back in the bunker, in the place that they finally found peace, their home. When Castiel is sleeping next to him, and he is utterly alone, and he can’t bring back his brother because this is simply life. The one they chose, in the end.
That’s when he finally breaks.
He’s not the same after. Cas is there, faithful at his side. Crowley comes more often. But it’s not the same. He is not the same.
It's less than a year after that Dean is found in the bunker by Claire and Alex. They burn his body and, after some deliberation, move into the bunker.
But it doesn't feel right.
No one sees Castiel after that. Or the Impala.
But not long after, he quietly returns to heaven. Not to the Host--he left that behind so long ago now it doesn't seem like his life.
He finds the boys. In a heaven that is so familiar it feels like coming home. Here, in Dean's arms and Sam's smile, in the bunker and on the road. On a short dock as the sun sets, and a star spangled field lit with fireworks and a field as a kite flies. They're home.
And it's not really an end. Or a beginning. It's just the next step.
And that is all he ever wanted. All any of them ever wanted.