Notes: AU. Set 20 years after season 4, character death. Archive only by GWL and myself.
Disclaimer: I don't own them, no money, don't sue, this is a work of fanfiction for fun only.
Summary: The war still isn't over, but there are many casualties.
The year is 2028 and it's summer. There's no wind, there's no clouds and there's no sounds, save for the panting of the old, black sheep dog lying at his feet.
Dean shifts in the rickety, old chair on the wooden porch and the chair squeaks in complaint as his bones crack. He pulls a face, eyes dull with familiar pain and looks out with bleary eyes over what was once a reasonably busy street.
Twenty years since the world changed irrevocably. Twenty years since he'd lost everything.
He's the sole human resident of Singer Salvage Yard, Bobby having gone on to meet his maker ten years before. Dean buried him in the small plot behind the ramshackle house, a plot that contains the ashes of other dearly beloved dead - dad, Ellen, Ash, Travis. Dean knows the ritual now too well - salt 'em, burn 'em, bury 'em in this square of earth filled with wormwood, pungent and rough against his rheumy hands, bordered by quartz crystals carved with protective runes. Each buried pile of ash is marked with a stone bearing a name and a year, nothing more.
Dean doesn't go there unless he has to. Not even if he's run out of wormwood.
The dog - Bluey - looks up at him and licks his leg and Dean bends down to pat the animal's head. "Just us, buddy," he says, and he winces at the sound of his voice in his own ears: old and frail. Bluey licks Dean's fingers, then turns his attention back to the empty road and the miles of waist high weeds and grass that stretch out behind it.
Truth is, Dean never thought he'd live this long. Certainly not long enough to see the modern world end. It went without any blaze of glory, not even a whimper. Certainly, he did not expect to live longer than Bobby or Ellen. And certainly not longer than his brother.
Sam's out there somewhere, fighting. Dean knows because he gets reports, infrequent and sometimes garbled, but he keeps abreast of what's going on, especially since the rheumatism took him so bad that walking the short distance between the front door and the bed is an agony. He carries a shotgun loaded with rock salt in one hand and a sturdy cane in the other. The salvage yard was left to him and Dean knows Bobby well enough to know there's no need to go and add to the already formidable array of protective signs and charms and runes carved into every line of the border of the property, on every door and window, on every gate and fence hole. It's as close to a safe haven as Dean could ever imagine.
It probably still isn't enough.
He's dozing in the late afternoon sun, the sound of crickets chirping and Bluey panting, is loud in his ears. He's dreaming of better days, days when his home was made of shining black steel and silver chrome, when he and Sam were together and life was good. So, when he hears the crunch of gravel and the sound of tires and an engine, he opens his eyes and is instantly alert, gun in hand. Bluey is standing to attention, growling softly, just waiting for the word to attack.
She gets out of the car, and Dean blinks. She's changed form again, got a new meat-suit, this one with long red hair and pale skin and freckles on her nose. She leans against the car and grins. "Howdy, Dean. Boy, you don't look a day over fifty."
"Fuck you, Ruby. What do you want?" Dean gets to his feet slowly, his free hand gripping his cane as he steps forward, Bluey beside him, hackles raised.
She ignores him and looks at the dog instead. "Clever," she admits. "Singer do that? Put a Hellhound into a normal dog just for you?"
Dean ignores the question. "I said, what do you want?"
"I brought Sam home," she says, the corners of her full lips turning down.
She raises a hand. "Before you get excited, no, this isn't a happy reunion. I'm just the delivery girl. Sam asked me to. He asked me to give you this," she tosses him a large jar full of herbs, and he catches it awkwardly, dropping his cane and cursing, "to pour on him when you╔well, you know." She walks to the trunk of the car and opens it and Dean has to bite the inside of his cheek to keep his emotions from showing as she hefts out a black plastic body bag with a grunt and drops it unceremoniously on the dirt.
"You fucking bitch," he snarls. "You╔"
"Not me, Dean," she answers, her voice angry. "He got cocky. Like all you Winchesters. Thought he was invincible and indestructible. Turns out," she sighs, "he was wrong."
"What happened?" Dean's voice is barely a whisper. Bluey beside him has taken a step towards Ruby, sensing his master's anger.
"Big fight up near Lake Tahoe. Demons, angels, hell, you name it, it was there." She shudders. "Sam was trying to take out Lilith and a few of the Nephilim, particularly one named Shemyaza. It╔didn't go so well." She pauses for a moment and Dean wonders if she's grieving. When she looks at him, he blinks, for her eyes are full of tears. "They let me get him back to you. After all," she laughs humourlessly, "what can he do to anyone now?"
"So what's this for?" Dean holds up the jar, proud of himself for managing to keep himself together. I will not break down in front of a demon bitch. I will not break down in front of a demon bitch.
"So he won't rise or anything. If he does, well, he was Azazel's favorite, after all, and he'll be one of us. You'll lose your brother all over again."
Dean nods, saying nothing. She nods in return and gets back into the car.
"Goodbye, Dean," she says and she drives away without looking back.
Dean knows he's seen her for the last time. Frankly, he's relieved.
Sam's face is older now, serene in death and just as beautiful as Dean remembers. He's covered head to toe in the herbs from the jar and Dean sighs, tears trickling unnoticed down his cheeks as he lights the pyre on which his brother's body lies. "It wasn't supposed to be like this, Sammy," he says softly as the flames lick at the dry wood. "You were supposed to have a better life, a life away from all this."
Bluey sits at Dean's side, attentive, silent and loyal, and Dean lays a hand on the dog's head. "Shit," he says softly and takes a long swig from the bottle of Jack in his other hand. His cane is leaning against his thigh as he drinks, and the tears come steadily now as he watches the flames devour his brother's body, coughs at the scent of smoke and attrition and pungent herbs that, if he lies to himself, he can pretend is what's causing his eyes to water.
Not tears. Dean Winchester hasn't shed tears for anyone in over ten years. Bluey licks his hand and he nods, as if to himself. "Yeah," he says quietly, "it's all over now. Just about."
Dawn is breaking when Dean finishes burying the ashes of his brother in the plot with his father, Ellen, Bobby, Ash and Travis. He takes the large stone with 'Sam Winchester, 2028' carved on it and places it on the ground over the buried ashes. "At least you're with friends and family, Sammy," Dean murmurs.
He's drunk and he's tired, so tired, and he's heart sore and worse - Bluey has to help guide him to his usual perch on the chair on the porch. The dog keeps his head in Dean's lap as Dean buries his face in his hands and cries like a broken hearted child for everything he's lost. After all, Dean mutters to his dog, he's not supposed to be the last surviving Winchester! He's supposed to be dead! Bluey licks his face and Dean weeps and the day slowly passes into night.
It's the sound of Bluey's whining that wakes him up and Dean looks around with weary eyes, a headache throbbing at his temples and an empty bottle of Jack at his feet. It takes a moment for him to orient himself, to fully wake up.
"I was wondering when you'd show up." Dean's voice holds no surprise.
"It's been a while," a soft voice agrees.
"So, now what?" Dean turns in his chair, winces as his joints complain. "They're all dead, what's left for me?"
"Nothing. It's time to go home now, Dean."
Dean looks at the offered hand and nods. "I'm really fucking tired, Castiel."
Dean takes the angel's hand and sighs as he feels the weariness and pain drain out of him. "What about this place? My brother? Dad?"
"It will be a haven for others. And╔ they're waiting for you," Castiel says and he smiles, that gentle, radiant smile that holds nothing but truth. "Come on, now."
Dean smiles and nods. "It's about time."
"You're not quite dead, yet," Castiel says gently, "but it's not far away."
"I'm not going back to hell, am I?"
"No." Castiel's voice is soothing. "You don't belong to hell and hell has no claim on you. It's time for you to finally go home."
Dean's eyes close. "Thank god."
"Yes," Castiel agrees, his fingers closing on Dean's own and Dean feels peace for the first time in far too long.