Fic: No Such Thing As Everafter, 1/2
Rating: Teen for cursing, innuendos about Dean's other favourite pasttime.
Summary: There's no such thing as Everafter when the Apocalypse ends. The Winchesters and their friends find that saving the world doesn't stop just because the Devil's gone.
Characters: Dean, Sam, Castiel, Bobby, Ellen, Jo, Rufus, Anna, a host of Angels, Demons, and original characters.
Ships: Dean/Impala, bitches.
Genre: Gen; hopefic
A/N: For thirteenfluidoz, who is a bad influence. Un beta'd.
It ends with a bang and a whimper.
Afterwards, no-one quite remembers how it ended. There was light, there was screaming, there was an understanding looking between two brothers before racing into the Void.
And it ends.
How it begins will change everything.
The first thing he remembers is how much everything hurts. His eyes, his teeth, the hairs on the back of his neck- Sam Winchester hurts on a cellular level.
The second thing he remembers is opening his eyes to a bright blue sky, the sun winking from the outskirts of his vision. It's the beginning of spring, and birds are singing.
He sits up, looks around. The grass is still green, the water of the nearby lake is still blue, and if it weren't for the nearby cabins and forest being leveled by a concussive blast, it would have been an ordinary day in Somewhere, Rhode Island.
That was the bang, he supposes.
A loud moan of irritation breaks his musing. Dean Winchester sits up, blinking madly, his face covered in stubble, blood, and dirt. Mostly other's blood, thank goodness, and Sam quietly thanks God for that.
The thought of God brings him back to why there are there in the first place, and he looks around. Bodies lie everywhere, some burnt, some only in pieces. Sam's eyes burn every time his glance happens upon another soul rent from it's mortal remains. The price of a human soul is another burden on his shoulders.
'Quit thinking,' Dean grumbles, and Sam looks at him, confused. Dean gets to his feet, trying to wipe the stains on his face away, but only managing to smear them more. He rolls his shoulders and stretches his back, grimacing as wounds become apparent to him.
'Dean-' Sam starts, only to be startled by the sudden appearance of one Castiel, who strolls calmly towards the brothers. He looks calm, serene, despite being covered in streaks of blood and dust. The last time Dean saw him was when Castiel laid a hand on his shoulder and told him that he was honoured to be his friend, before sprinting to join Anna, Gabriel, and the handful of other Angels who had come to side with humanity in their final stand.
'We've won,' Castiel says quietly. He casts aside a dagger so similar to the one Sam finds is still firmly held in his clenched fist. 'We've won,' he repeats, and a smile, big and cheek stretching and brighter than the sun, breaks out on his face.
Dean and Sam look at one another, and for a long moment, there is silence. Then Dean pumps his hand into the air and lets out a whoop that sends birds screaming into flight and attracts attention of the other survivors. Sam watches in amusement as his brother spots Bobby and practically mauls him with a bear hug. 'We did it!' he shouts, and the sound of resounding screams- sorrow and joy and relief, prayers and hopes- breaks the silence of before.
It's over. They've done it.
Who the hell would have thought that the nerd and the drop-out could have held the Devil at bay?
There is no real celebration to speak of. The world lies covered in the ashes of an evil most could never hope to comprehend.
The victories are small, after the Devil is done. A family reunited. A dog who has found its way home. But if humanity has learnt anything since the Battle, it is to cherish the small wins they can manage; there is nothing else to hold the abyss back.
The burial held for the Hunters who sacrificed themselves is less than a funeral and more of an understanding. There is not just one, because the Battle was on many fronts. In a rare moment of privacy, Dean shows Sam pictures from Japan, Libya, Morocco- so many sons and daughters buried around the earth.
At the burial for the Hunters in Rhode Island, Jo weeps without shame and Rufus sinks to the ground, praying for friends he has lost. Distantly, Sam sees Anna's face, impassive as cold marble, as she lights the body of a vessel, As the bodies burn in their graves, Dean gives in and hunches down, letting hot tears carve into his face and he listens to their names being given, a roll call of the departed, dearly or otherwise.
It's Sam who insists that the humans possessed by Demons and Angels are also honoured; a life is a life, no matter how it was taken. And if anything, he knows that it's more for the families of the possessed, to let them know that they mattered and had a life before Hell fell down upon them.
And he knows the shame the survivors feel, too.
They talk very little of the final battle. Castiel, riding quietly in the backseat, understands. He just buckles himself in and asks if they can stop and get an ice cream.
When Dean, surprised, asks why, he merely tells them that if he partially responsible for helping to save the world, thwarting the Devil and remaining faithful to His word, God is probably not going to mind a pitstop for milk-based products.
They have to pull over because Dean and Sam laugh so hard, Sam can't see straight and Dean is one breath away from bringing his lunch back up.
In the backseat, Castiel smiles, and feels as if he has done something really, really good.
'You guys have got to stop doing this shit,' Dean says, in a warning voice.
Before him stands a small five year old boy, Asian, with a cheeky look, and an even smaller girl, with light brown hair and pretty eyes.
'We're sorry,' says Gabriel in a high girl's voice. 'And don't worry about the bodies,' she adds, holding up a hand. 'We made a deal. The boy and the girl were badly injured. Their parents are letting us use them so they can heal. They'll be fine when we leave.'
'Who'd have thought Gabriel and Ariel would've been so kind,' Dean mutters, rolling his eyes. 'What do you guys want?'
The two vessels look at one another. 'We wanted to say thank you,' Ariel says. 'Is that so bad?' Sam looks askance at Castiel, who is eyeing the the small children with his normal, impassive stare.
'No,' Sam says finally. He shrugs and crosses his arms.
'We also came to tell Castiel,' Ariel says, 'that he needs to stay for a while longer.'
Now both brothers look at their angelic friend, who merely cocks his head to the side.
'The Winchesters need you,' Gabriel states.
'And we must be elsewhere, so you are to stay here. Father's orders,' Ariel finishes.
'If that is what He wishes,' Castiel says neutrally. Inwardly, Sam breathes a sigh of relief; if they had come to take Cas away, he was pretty sure there was going to be an epic battle between the kids and Dean, and he didn't feel like explaining to the motel staff about why his older brother was attempting (and probably failing) to beat the snot out of a pair of cherubic looking preschoolers.
The children fix their eyes on Dean, who rolls his eyes and snorts. 'Whatever,' he huffs. 'Go swim home, little mermaid.'
It's a few weeks before they start getting noticed. Dean doesn't know who started leaking pictures to what remains of the press, but one day they haul themselves out of the Impala, only to be surrounded by haggard faced men and women.
'Is it really you?' one old woman asks, and places a gnarled finger on Dean's cheek, touching it reverently. 'Are you the ones who saved us?'
'Uh,' is the only thing Dean can manage, trying not to shrink back. 'Uh, there were a lot of us,' he mumbles. 'All over the world.'
'But you,' another man breathes, 'you found the Devil. You and your brother did him in.'
'Um, yeah, maybe,' Dean chokes out, backing up. He flattens out against the door of his beloved car, mentally willing himself to become one with the Impala- anything to get out of this awkwardness.
'Excuse me, ma'am,' Sam breaks in. 'No offense, but we've been driving for over half a day. We'd- we'd just like to get some rest.'
'Of course, of course,' she says softly. She digs shriveled hands into old pockets and produces a large brass key. 'On the house,' she says with a kind smile, and when Sam tries to argue, she pushes it into his hand.
'My little boy was possessed,' she says when he starts to sputter. 'And then he was free.' She folds his long fingers over with her stubby ones. 'Please,' she whispers, and he nods.
That night, Sam sleeps like a baby. Dean stares at the ceiling and feels helpless, because how many little boys didn't come back that March morning?
After three weeks of celebrity, they get a cold dose of what the other side is like.
They're walking o a library in La Vale, Maryland when all of the sudden, Castiel is thrown to the side. Not a heartbeat later, Dean and Sam have both drawn guns, Dean scrambling to help an unfazed Castiel up.
'What the hell?' Dean roars. 'Who did that?'
A stringy, bruised-eye teen snarls at them. 'You're the fucking bastards,' he snaps.
'Excuse me?' Dean says. 'My parents were married, asshole. What's your problem?'
'You killed my mother.' The boy bites off every word like he's tearing into flesh.
'Look man,' Sam says, 'I'm sorry about your mom, but if she was possessed and hurting other people-'
'The Angels and Demons came here,' the boys says angrily. 'They came her because of you, they fought and she died.'
Dean looks at him, dumbfounded. He lowers his weapon, but keeps a beady eye on the teen.
'Look at me, you zit faced punk,' Dean says nastily. Sam looks up in surprise, but Dean holds up a hand. 'You think you're the only person who lost their family because the Angels and the Demons couldn't keep it to themselves? Huh?' He jabs a finger, first at the boy, then at the crowd.
'You think we wanted it this way?' he shouts angrily. 'I've buried more people I cared about than I still have alive. I've hurt people that I loved, I've been to Hell, I never get a fucking vacation, I never get to stop.' His voice rises with every syllable until he's almost shrieking. He continues, and Sam and Castiel listen, Sam's heart breaking for his older brother.
The crowd is silent, unmoving. When Dean finishes, he's bent over, calloused hands resting on bruised knees. There is a hush broken by the sound of feet slapping the pavement. Dean looks up, red-eyed and sweating, and just barely misses being socked in the face by the boy.
'I don't care!' he shrieks. 'She's dead! She's dead she's dead shesdeadshes-'
His words die when Sam's fist connects with his face, teeth cracking and nose bending. He towers over the kneeling boy.
'You think you're the first person who ever lost their mom?' he whispers darkly. The boy looks up, surprised, and flinches at the stone face glowering down at him. 'At least you got to have one.'
Neither boy sleeps that night, and when Dean sneaks off to the bathroom, Castiel and Sam can hearing him sobbing out his shame.
'We have to what?' Dean asks, scrunching up his face.
'I am sorry,' Castiel says, 'but it must be done.'
'This sucks,' Sam mumbles, trying to rub the sleep from his eyes.
Castiel sits neatly in a badly upholstered chair, his ever present tan trench coat sharp, shoes neatly shined. 'Why do we have to reseal all the broken ones?' Dean grumbles. 'Why can't heaven get off its collective ass and do it themselves? I want a break!'
Castiel shifts slightly. 'Too many angels dead, or being punished,' he says coolly. 'We will have help, and we are not the only ones entrusted to this task, so the three of us will not be the only ones responsible.'
'Who else?' Sam asks.
'That I know of?' Castiel blinks, clears his throat. 'Or rather, that we know of, because it's Hunters who are tasked to do this. I have called Bobby, and he's confirmed that he's gotten a message as well. He also mentioned Rufus and the girl, Jo, whom I believe will be going with her mother, Ellen.' He pulls out his cellphone. 'There are others, as well, but communication is sparse.'
Dean sighs and flops down. To Sam and Castiel's surprise, he pulls the covers up.
'Tell heaven that if it can't wait five more hours,' he grumps, 'they can kiss my pasty ass. Checkout's not until two and hell if I'm leaving before then.'
In total, two hundred and thirty eight seals are broken. Dean threatens to drive the Impala off of a cliff until Castiel patiently reminds him that the United States is, in fact, not the only place that had been affected. Of the original two hundred and thirty eight, only sixty two were actually located in the US, and only 99 on the North American continent.
'Patience is a virtue, Dean,' he says, and Sam and Dean both swear they hear a hint of amusement in his voice. 'You must let me finish. As I said, there are others working on this.'
'Where to first?' Sam asks hurriedly.
'Las Vegas,' Castiel says. A bright smile breaks out on Dean's face, and he begins to speed up.
'New Mexico,' he adds, and Dean's happiness fades. Sam laughs.
Dean gains his revenge by blasting For Whom the Bells Tolls on repeat until Sam threatens to shoot his radio.
The first re-sealing goes fairly easily.
This may be because Ellen, Jo and Rufus are present, or because this seal is ridiculously easy to create.
Still, Dean feels a bit stupid while trying to wrestle a stubborn lamb to the ground while Sam attempts to feed it palm leaves.
They move from town to town. Generally, they can find free shelter and hot meals; Dean even manages to run into a pretty girl sometimes, completely and happily ignoring Castiel's irritated looks and muttered comments about fornication and other sins.
Life settles into a pattern; they move from place to place, Castiel and Sam tracking clues, Dean cornering local historians and finding more information. Sometimes there's a demon to slay or a monster to put down. In Antioch, Illinois, where they have to forge a new seal by digging up an entire graveyard and spreading the consecrated earth over every fucking inch of the town, they also managed to wipe out two clans of vampires in the space of twelve hours.
'Rock stars, man,' Dean says. 'That's what we are!'
'Right,' Sam says, raising an eyebrow. 'Then Cas must be Elvis, since he did most of the work.' Castiel, covered in graveyard dirt, shrugs.
One night, Sam loses it. He's tired, and hungry, and when he lays down and closes his eyes, the scent of lavender detergent fills his nose, and his thoughts are suddenly full of Jess.
It takes five hours, four six packs, three broken lamps, two fist fights, and one very confused Angel before the anger drains from him, and he falls to the floor.
Sam walks out, confused, and hurt. Dean elects to sleep in his car. Castiel stands in the middle of the room, not knowing how to deal with the situation.
He decides to take the last beer and continues standing there.
Occasionally they come across other Hunters. One weekend is spent with Jo as she searches for a piece of the Shroud of Turin in New York, combing over every holy spot they come across. They spend a month with Bobby while Castiel is off on patrol, as he deems it. carving crosses and prayers into ancient pine trees, sleeping on the ground.
Sometimes they have unexpected help. Dean looks down wearily as he cuts his hundredth cross, only to be startled by the sound of branches snapping. He turns around to see a group of teens looking at him curiously. One brave girl peers over his shoulder, and turns to look at her friends. Without a word, they spread out, taking out switchblades and x-acto knives, carefully working into the trees.
Within a week, every member of the small town has been there at least once, carving, etching, and burning into their trees.
When the seal is created, they throw a party, and Sam has the best damn short-ribs this side of the Mason-Dixon line.
Dean shakes every hand proferred to him, and as they drive away, full and sated, he smiles for the first time since Las Vegas, New Mexico.
They sleep a dreamless sleep when they get to their destination.
In Chehalis, Washington, Sam is struck down with a nasty case of the flu.
For several days, Dean sits with him in their motel room, Castiel coming and going as always. Between Sam rushing to the bathroom to vomit and Sam rushing to the bathroom because he thinks he might, Dean spends the better part of the week twiddling his thumbs, surfing for porn, and watching more television in five days than he has in the past five years.
When Sam is finally recovering, the brothers and Castiel step outside. Dean frowns; they had arrived at night and hadn't realised how badly Chehalis has been trashed. Buildings lie broken, cars overturned, houses destroyed- Chehalis is all but destroyed.
They are welcomed with smiles, mostly, shaking hands with the locals, politely turning down offers of lunch, entertainment, and (to Dean's great regret) a private evening with a very lovely young woman. Amidst the pleasantries, they manage to pump some information out of the locals; several people from their town have gone missing. A quick chat with the sheriff reveals that many are missing from neighbouring townships as well.
'Something is wrong,' Castiel muses out loud, looking around him.
'Because that never happens to us,' Dean says, walking back to the Impala. He pops the trunk and hands Sam the shotgun and shells.
'Do we even know what we have to do here to make a new seal?' Sam asks. Castiel shakes his head.
'We must find out what is wrong first,' he says. Dean nods, and starts sorting out his clips. Castiel throws a bag of rock salt over his shoulder, and they leave.
Four hours later, they finally catch their break.
Walking just past city limits, they begin to hear voices, some angry, others frightened. 'You can't do this to us!' one says. 'Please, please don't hurt me,' another whimpers.
'Yahtzee,' Dean says. They start walking more cautiously, trying to find the source of the noise. They creep, looking over fences, feeling rather shady until Castiel points out that the whole neighbourhood appears to be abandoned- with the exception of one house, with brown eaves and large windows- at the end of a cul-du-sac. They quietly rush over and open the front door; the voices grow louder and more insistent.
'Hello?' Sam calls out. His voice echoes over white spackled walls.
'The backyard,' Dean whispers, and they trudge towards the end of the house. They squat, trying to decide the best way to confront whatever the hell it is they're fighting this week. Sam sneaks a peek through a window, and slumps back down with a gasp. Dean raises an eyebrow and takes a quick look.
Dozens of people- maybe a hundred- are tied to poles in the backyard. They struggle against their bonds. Some are shouting with rage, others weep quietly. Men, women, children, all races, tied firmly.
'What the fuck?' he blurts out. 'What kind of sacrificial bullshit is this?'
'I don't know,' Sam says hurriedly. 'I mean I've heard of mass bloodletting and stuff to appease Gods or whatnot, but nothing like this.'
'Well, we don't got much of a choice here,' Dean says hoarsely. 'We gotta rescue them.'
'Yeah,' Sam says, 'but we don't want kill them either.' They look at Castiel, who eyes them in confusion.
'What?' he asks. 'I'll try to exorcise the demon if there is one.'
'On the count of three?' Sam asks? Dean nods. He counts. They rush out, gun high. 'Oh, thank goodness,' one pudgy blonde lady says.
'What the hell is going on?' Dean shouts.
'Some crazy bitch kidnapped us!' a tall, handome Indian man calls out. The others voice and nod their agreement. Dean nods Sam and Castiel over.
'Untie them first, or find crazy bitch lady first?' he asks, looking around. Sam thinks, but Castiel holds up a hand.
'I think she's right there, Dean,' he says, pointing over Dean's shoulder. The brothers turn.
She's young, and tall, and poorly built, narrow shoulders and a slight pooch to her stomach. The girl watches them with a sad face, dark red hair spilling over bowed shoulders and back.
Dean rushes her, halting a few feet away, gun aimed squarely at her face. 'What the hell are you doing with these people, lady?' he asks coldly. The girl looks down at her feet, head nodding slightly.
'Are you Dean Winchester?' she asks finally. He blinks.
'Maybe,' he says. 'What's it to you?'
She looks up at him. 'You saved the humans,' she mumbles, eyes dancing all over the place. 'You and Sam Winchester, and Bobby Singer, Ellen Harvelle, Jo Harvelle, Rufus Tanner....' Her voice, thick and quavering, trails off.
'And now,' she continues, 'you're remaking the seals to keep Lucifer in Hell.'
'Yeah?' he says with a sneer. 'What, you pissed that old Lucy's been sent back to detention?' He calls out over his shoulder. 'Sam! Cas! Get to freeing those people.'
'I wouldn't do that,' she says, putting out a hand. 'Don't let them go! You can't!' Freckled fingers dance in his face.
'Fuck you,' he spits out, and she pulls her hand back, looking hurt. 'Oh, don't give me the puppy face,' he says.
'Dean,' Castiel calls out.
'Not now Cas!' Dean shouts back.
'No, Dean!' This time it's Sam, his voice urgent. 'Dean, look at the ground!'
Dean grudgingly looks down. His eyes widen.
Beneath every single person tied up is a Devil's Trap. And not just any average trap, but the same one Castiel had used on Alaistair a lifetime ago. He looks up in shock.
The girl, still looking mournful, turns away from his gaze, but says, 'Do you think you're the only person with an Angel riding on their shoulder?' She walks past a confused Dean, turning towards the captured ones. Sam watches as all their eyes turn black, and to the youngest, they begin to snarl, screaming insults.
They watch as the sad girl raises her arms and eyes and begins to speak harshly, her voice carrying over the curses. The language is unfamiliar.
'What's she saying?' Sam asks Castiel, whose eyes narrow in confusion.
'It's Akkadian,' he murmurs. 'Very old, very powerful. She's exorcising them.' The girl continues, her voice carrying, and as the last syllable dies, the demons writhe in agony. Mouths open and the air fills with black smoke, blotting out the noonday sun. Sam covers his ears to muffle the screams, Dean closes his eyes, and Castiel alone watches them disappear into the sky.
It's violent, heart-wrenching, and beautiful.
An hour later, the last prisoner is freed. Dean throws their ropes to the ground and surveys the area, now filled with sobbing, demon-free humans. Some are puking, some are hugging, some merely sit and cry until there's nothing left in them.
The girl stands off to the side, staring at nothing. She's muttering to herself when Dean and Sam approach her carefully; Castiel is trying to reassure them that they're free now. Even with proof that he's an angel, some remain unconvinced.
'Hey,' Sam says softly. 'Hey, um...'
'Mercy,' she says quietly. She looks up. 'Mercy Smith.'
'Oh, well, uh, Mercy,' Dean says. 'Thanks. And sorry for the whole pointing the gun at your face thing.'
'It's fine,' she says. She looks up in the air, and then back down. 'Did you really not know about all the other people with Angels?'
'Well, I mean I figured there were.' Dean shrugs. 'Don't run into a lot of them, to be honest.'
'Oh,' she says. 'Um, I guess that makes sense.' There's an awkward silence; Dean still feels rather shitty about almost gunning down an ally and Sam is inwardly attempting to keep the flu at bay.
'You said you had an angel riding on your shoulder,' Castiel says suddenly, approaching the group. He leans in towards the girls, who swallows and backs up. 'Who?'
She takes another step back, putting out her hands placatingly. 'He said you might be mad,' she said, 'but he's on your side. Our side.' She twists her lips and crosses her arms.
'Azrael,' she says finally. 'Azrael's my angel.'