Title: From Yesterday, Epilogue
Characters: Dean, Sam, and OCs
Disclaimer/Summary: See Part 1: Prologue
art by thruterryseyes
We cannot pass our guardian angel's bounds; resigned or sullen, he will hear our sighs.
Lawrence, KS, 2024
There were things only he could see, and yet there was still so much he missed. If his father were near, he would be laughing at the futility of the angelic learning curve. After all, he had been present when God pulled star matter from the universe and turned it into life. He had seen men create and destroy over millennia. He had been a Warrior of the Lord and fought legions of demons.
He'd laid waste to Hell to search for one shining light of a human soul among the roiling mass of chaos.
And yet the uncertainty of the darkness had held sway over his faith to the end; to the moment the vessel he'd become so accustomed to, so comfortable inside, had been eradicated with a snap of his brother's fingers, and he'd slipped into a state of awareness of all, of everything.
It was temporarily overwhelming, this awareness.
He had been their guardian. He had watched over them from the moment they were a fleeting thought. He had observed and catalogued…and then suddenly he'd been a part of them and everything had changed. He'd…felt for them. He'd fought for them, bled for them, cared for them.
Human emotions were incredibly difficult to catalogue and nearly impossible to observe, even for a celestial being. Feeling them had been intoxicating. Addictive. Necessary.
Being so forcible removed from his vessel had nearly destroyed him. The wave of energy he became was nothing compared to what he'd been. When he'd been part of the brotherhood.
Time ceased to have meaning. Existence was simply now.
The darkness of that night – his last night on Earth – had texture. He'd felt it breathing around him, stroking the shadows of his wings, clutching at the human under his care with greedy fingers. His angelic might had sent it on retreat, but he now knew it hadn't been enough. He hadn't been enough.
All of his power, all of his knowledge, the centuries of observations had been weighed, measured, and found lacking by the ever-critical darkness. It had taken a human, a human with a soul brighter than any he'd ever seen, to banish the dark. A human he'd watched emerge from a thought to become a warrior, a brother.
He'd heard Dean call out to him. Felt the pull of the familiar voice over and over, but he'd been unable to extricate himself from the net of energy that had caught him after Lucifer sent him spinning. And each time Dean's voice went silent, he'd simply ceased to care.
It was easy to let it go, to simply exist. It was so very easy to allow the energy to hold him in the light, let something else stand guard.
And then he was no longer existing. Dean's voice became insistent and was joined by a power that he'd not known was possible in human standards. He was standing on Earth once more, but this time Dean couldn't hear him. He'd been forced to request a vessel – a momentary, temporary vessel – and had been fortunate that one was so near. One whose soul was strong enough to contain his grace.
It rushed back. Dean speaking his name had returned every memory, every sensation, every desire to him and in that moment Castiel knew who he was. Who he was meant to be. He felt need and regret and longing.
He felt. Everything, all of it. At once.
There was an ache inside of him. A yearn for the sensation of wind on his skin, of food on his tongue. He wanted to grip a weapon and a shoulder and a friend. He wanted to be part of them again. Part of the brotherhood.
Releasing the vessel had been a great sacrifice, but one he honored as he took stock of the human memories and realized that this person had become important to Dean. Almost as important as Castiel had once been. He was not able to take that away.
But he didn't return. Not to the energy, the light. He couldn't simply exist any longer, not now that he remembered. Not now that he knew, once more, what humanity was capable of. The fragility of such creatures was belied by their capacity to love and to hate and to protect and to destroy. And Castiel needed to be there, even if it was only to see, to observe.
As he watched these brothers, he realized he could experience through them. As secretive as they were to the world around them, their experiences bled from them in waves of emotion. He felt Dean's anguish as he watched his friend decide to bond with the amulet, knowing that he would be leaving his brother, his child, the woman he loves. But doing so in order to shove back the darkness so far it would take it centuries to fully regroup. It was a choice that was beyond the human capacity to understand and accept, and yet Dean did.
Castiel followed Dean into that fight. He stepped between blade and claw, unable to be everywhere, but using what light he still possessed, what might was granted him, to keep those Dean held dear safe, alive, whole.
And then there was Sam.
Sam, who had always been as self-sacrificing as his brother. Sam, who Dean had died to save. Sam, who could not – would not – let his brother die alone in symbolic tribute to Dean's willingness to do the same when facing down Lucifer. Castiel had not been fast enough to protect Sam. He'd not been enough, period.
And to his amazement, he wasn't supposed to be. The light generated by the brother's joined hands blasted through the Heavens. It hushed the demonic grip of Hell. It bowed every human near and caused the angels to cry out in wonder. It was a moment of pure light, pure power, generated by love and sacrifice.
In the expansive stretch of time where Castiel could mark his existence, he'd not experienced the like.
The word had been whispered by a child. Dean's child. Caomhnóir. Castiel knew immediately that the child was right; he was no longer the guardian of their lives. Dean had assumed that role long ago, Castiel had just failed to see it. And Dean had failed to believe it. They'd been blindly living a truth. And it had taken a child to remove the film from their eyes and show them what was real.
But even knowing that his role, his place in their lives had altered from guard to watcher, Castiel was still unable to slip back into the energy where he'd existed peacefully unaware. He simply couldn't leave. So, he continued what he'd done most of their lives: he observed, he catalogued.
Years passed and the Winchesters adjusted to a new way of living, a new way of looking at the world. Unions were made and children were born and the Winchester brothers learned that happiness – that hope – could actually exist for them.
Castiel was alternately amused and amazed at the changes he saw and the ways in which the brothers accommodated each other. Their hands never really healed. Sam adjusted his way of typing so that he could still complete the hunting database, and that therapy led to a decision to begin documenting their lives. He began the story with the moment Dean came to Stanford and asked him to help locate their father, but then realized that their journey together had started long before that.
Passages would sink into Sam's mind at odd times: while he slept, while he spoke with his wife, while he watched his children. But most often, Castiel realized, they'd come to him when he was with Dean.
Sam watched Dean with a surprising clarity of understanding. He saw things within his brother that Castiel knew Dean never saw within himself, despite the change in him since the light.
Memories of their childhood fed into realizations of how certain events and experience shaped their adulthood, and Sam captured it all. What began as therapy soon became a passion, a need, something he wasn't able to complete a day without.
However, it was his son, John, who showed him what really should be done with these stories. It was John's insatiable need to know more, to learn exactly how and why and when that drove Sam to organize the random stories into something of a history, a memoir. It was John's fascination with the man who was his father that compelled Sam to keep the stories sincere and factual, and as unpretentious and forthright as someone who'd actually lived such a life could manage.
John would curl up in the corner of Sam's small writing office, printed pages gripped in his hands, devouring the words and firing up questions.
"Wait, are you telling me you and Uncle Dean seriously fought two wendigos? Like, at once?"
Sam's grin was both humble and infectious. "Yeah. I had a broken leg, too."
"Dang, Dad. You're kind of a badass." The child had his mother's dark eyes, but his father's smile, and at eleven was quite tall for his age.
"You better not let your mother hear you talk like that," Sam cautioned him.
Sam leaned back in his chair, carding his undamaged right hand through hair that had never been shorter than his chin. The dark blue T-shirt he wore was frayed at the arm cuffs, a print of some kind having long ago faded. The cuffs of his jeans were frayed as well, but his son's attire was clean and neat and a testament to where Sam's energies were focused.
"Where's your sister?" Sam asked as his son set the papers he'd been reading back down on the edge of Sam's desk.
"Somewhere with Linny. It's driving day." The capacity for a sarcasm-laced tone was learned early in the Winchester household.
"C'mon, Johnny, give her a break, okay?"
"Dad, I told you. It's John now."
Castiel echoed Sam's smile, unable to help himself. The memories slipped through Sam's gentle eyes of when he'd fought for his own identity, though Castiel noted that he hadn't objected to Dean's nickname in years.
"And Linny's been talking about it since, like…Christmas."
Sam nodded at his son but continued his caution.
"She's just excited," he said. "Dean's been promising to let her drive the Impala since her birthday. She's earned this." He tilted his head. "Besides, it'll be your turn soon enough."
John scowled, looking shockingly like his father as he did. "Yeah, but by that time the Impala will be a planter."
Sam laughed. "I doubt it. Your uncle is going to keep that thing running until the day he dies."
"You gonna let me drive it?" John looked up with an arched brow.
"That's up to Dean," Sam lifted a shoulder, turning his attention back to his keyboard. "It's his car."
"That's not what it says here," John pointed to the stack of papers on the edge of Sam's desk. "Says it was your dad's. And then it was like…your house. Kinda. So, really, it's both of yours."
Sam smiled softly and shook his head. "Naw, kid. That car's always been Dean's. I just borrowed it once in a while." At John's sullen sigh, Sam peered at his son from beneath his lashes. "I'll tell you a secret."
John moved closer to his father. "What?"
"You really want to drive her when you're sixteen? You'll start helping your uncle keep her running now."
"Like Linny did?"
"Yep," Sam nodded. "Sometimes it's hard for him to get underneath and reach some of the tighter places."
"'Cause of his leg?"
"And his hand," Sam replied, turning his left hand over and inspecting the knotted scar. "He can't move his fingers like I can, remember."
"Yeah, I remember," John said, his smaller hand fitting neatly into Sam's palm, gently touching his dad's scar. "You gonna write about the hunt where Uncle Dean hurt his leg?"
"The púca," Sam bounced his head. "Haven't thought of that thing in a while." He looked at his son curiously. "You remember any of that hunt?"
John shook his head. "Nah, but Linny told me some. Y'know how she remembers, like, everything."
"She gets that from her dad," Sam replied softly.
John thunked two fingers on the stack of papers. "Kinda think you remember lots of stuff, too."
"I guess I do," Sam nodded. He sat back and Castiel watched him remember that hunt, marveling not for the first time at the way Sam's thoughts left tracks across his features. "Dean called it the McGuyver of the monster world," he chuckled.
"What's a McGuyver?" John asked.
Sam shot his son a surprised look, then laughed. Reaching out to ruffle his son's hair with a grin, he said, "Go find your sister and see if your mom's back yet."
Having been given another kernel of an idea, Castiel knew Sam was beginning to feel that need to capture it all. Dean had never read any of Sam's manuscript. Even before it was a manuscript. Sam had never pressed him to, either. There were some things it seemed, by Castiel's observation, that were easier for Dean to leave blurred in his past – even good memories, or memories of hunts that turned out for the better.
Dean never had a problem recalling lore or methods or spells when he needed to; he'd simply allow others to remember for him whenever possible so as to maintain an easement between himself and potential pain. Sam and Castiel knew all too well when Dean's memories surfaced: at night, when he was stripped of his inner walls of protection.
So, Sam had captured their story in bits and pieces, leaning on calendars and the occasional conversation with his brother to bring the pieces together to form the complete picture.
John had been the one to suggest the stories could become an actual book. Even if it was looked at as fiction by the world, people would want to read it. Stella had grabbed onto that idea – especially as it was one that kept Sam home and safe – and had found him an interested publisher. Once it was an actual thing and not a hobby, Sam had found himself stymied by the focus, the pattern, and the path each story followed.
Their lives were impossible. Who would believe that they'd survived what they survived? Even fiction wasn't this improbable.
Dean had given him his answer. All it took was for his brother to step between Sam's child and danger for Sam to see what had been in front of him all along. Their story wasn't about hunting. It wasn't about the creatures hiding in the shadows or waiting for the dark.
It was about two brothers.
Castiel remember when the simplicity of the answer struck Sam it was like a burst of light inside of him. The complexity of family was more compelling than any hunt. And after forty years of watching his brother, Sam had the perfect eyes with which to capture the confusion and clarity, the joy and heartbreak, the fury and peace that came from being brothers.
Adding monsters to the mix just sweetened the pot.
Once John had left the room, Sam stood, stretching his back. He had collected a few more scars over the years, though most where hidden from the world. Though his face was unlined, his eyes held the weight of his history. He walked with a sort of nervous pace, as if he were always anxious he wouldn't get to where he was going in time.
Sam had put his abbreviated Stanford education to good use and helped his wife and sister-in-law create and run a successful business. He'd continued to relish in the normal existence of working as a bartender and earning a paycheck. He'd shared his database with hunters across the country, helping to make short work of some more obscure creatures and some potentially deadly encounters. And he'd watched his brother's back in every hunt the two had been on since the light eradicated their angelic connection.
Castiel knew Sam missed being able to see Dean's thoughts, memories, emotions even these many years later. He could read it on Sam's face when he observed his brother. But he also knew that on some level, Sam was grateful to be spared the reminder of Dean's pain. Sam had a good life; it was hard to enjoy the moments of peace and pleasure when confronted with a visceral reminder that Dean didn't necessarily enjoy the same, consistent peace.
Sam opened the window to the small room Stella had set up for him to write. The constant Kansas wind swept through the space as if it had been waiting just outside for the opportune moment. Sam turned quickly, but wasn't in time to catch the top few papers that were tossed from the stack on his deck.
Swearing softly, Sam scrambled to collect the papers. Castiel saw glimpses of passages capturing some of Sam's thoughts that led into stories about hunts they'd survived.
When I think about my brother, there's always this invisible dividing line that seems to hover just before him – a line that separates Dean from everyone else. He was always in a category apart, not only because of who he was to me, but because of what he did for the world.
Dean never saw that line.
To him, it was simply about doing the job. The job that defined him, that marked him and that drove him…until he ran out of road.
What followed was a recount of a particularly violent encounter with a banshee, long before Castiel had any direct interaction with the Winchesters. Back when healing them had been outside of his mission parameters. Back when he didn't realize what a massive loss their deaths would have been to the world.
Sam stacked the papers, pausing at one and taking a second look.
Loyalty is a concept ingrained into hunters alongside uses for rock salt and the correct symbols to ward off demons. For the longest time, I thought it was because our dad was a Marine: never leave a man behind and all of that. But when Dad died, and my brother and I encountered others who did what we did, who knew what we knew, I quickly realized that it was simply part of an unwritten code we all lived by.
That's not to say there weren't those who broke the code; Dean and I both learned that the hard way. But with those exceptions aside, loyalty among hunters kept us alive more times than I can recount, and got us into more trouble than I want to remember.
Looking back, I realize it was that quality that decided Dean's fate. Not his incredible stubbornness, not his endless capacity to love, but his unwavering loyalty.
Castiel knew this to be the story of the amulet: the events from the aborted Apocalypse at Stull Cemetery to Dean's near-sacrifice with the amulet's power. Castiel could replay the moments since Dean had summoned him to that clearing for answers to the amulet's riddle as if they were once more happening to them all.
"Johnny! Give it back!"
Sam's daughter normally had a soft, almost melodious voice for an eight-year-old. Except when she was pissed. Which she clearly was now. Setting down the papers, putting a chunk of rock on top to keep them from blowing away, Sam strode out into the hallway of their small, three-bedroom house.
Sam's writing 'studio' had at one time been the laundry room. Between Stella's design and Dean's determination, however, they'd moved the washer and dryer to the basement, retro-fitting the room to serve as a decent office and a place where Sam was able to let the world slip away and get actual work done.
Except for times when his children were arguing. Loudly.
"It's not yours! You're just gonna ruin it."
Sam followed Thea's incensed voice down the stairs. Named after her maternal grandmother, Thea was every bit a Winchester, down to her hazel eyes and controlled temper. If she was angry enough to shout this loud, odds were John had triggered her something fierce.
"I'm trying to help!" Thea continued to shout as Sam rounded the corner into the living room where his children stood on either side of the coffee table, fire in their eyes.
"Well, you're doing a great job," John retorted sarcastically, "on opposite day!"
"All right, all right," Sam broke in, grabbing Thea as she lunged for her brother, "Hey! Enough!"
She was small for eight, built slim like her mother, and Sam easily scooped her up and sat her next to him on the couch, keeping her away from her brother with one large hand as he looked at his son.
"What's going on, Johnny?" he asked, calmly.
"She started it," John replied sullenly.
"I'm asking you."
"He just grabbed it outta my hands—"
"You shouldn't have had it I the first place—"
"Hey!" Sam barked, making both kids jump. "I said enough." He looked at John. "Show me."
Reluctantly, John held a battered, leather-bound journal out to Sam, his mouth folded down in a bow of regret. Sam took it, his fingers closing over the worn edges, and Castiel saw once more the path emotion took across Sam's features. With a small, sad smile, Sam looked first at John, then over at Thea.
"You both know what this is, right?" Sam asked, his voice gentle.
The children nodded.
"Where did you find it, Thea?"
Head hanging low, talking to the toe of her shoe, Thea replied, "At Uncle Dean's. It was out on his work bench."
"In the garage?" Sam asked.
Thea nodded. "Linny was doing something with the car and I was bored." She looked up at her father and Castiel had a fleeting glimpse of Sam at that age. "It's part of your stories, so I wanted to help."
"You wanted to help me with my stories?" Sam tilted his head curiously.
"I couldn't read all the words real good," Thea confessed. "But I saw this," she reached over Sam's arm and opened the journal to a page with Dean's name written in all caps and the numbers 35-111 in a circle. "And then this," she turned to another page where his father had drawn a stick figure of a wendigo, "and I figured you could use it to help your stories."
Sam looked over at John, who shifted from one foot to the other, uncomfortable.
"Johnny," he said carefully. "How much of your granddad's journal have you read?"
"Not much," John confessed. "I couldn't really read his handwriting," he shrugged. "Plus, I had your stories, so…."
Castiel had been curious to observe that the moment Sam's children had started talking and questioning, Sam had told them the truth about his life, about the world, and about what he did. He cautioned them to be careful because most people wouldn't understand. John took to the idea of a secret identity quickly, comfortable in the fact that his father and uncle lived a double life that only those deemed worthy knew about.
Thea, however, struggled with the idea of hiding the truth from people. It had been Aislinn, and her uncanny ability to see inside of another person and find their truth, who'd helped Thea accept as much as a child her age could accept.
Granted, witnessing her uncle save her from a vengeful spirit had certainly helped.
"I'm sorry, Dad," Thea whispered, looking as if she was trying her best to completely disappear. "When you get your stories done, then people will know who you really are and the kids won't be able say…."
Sam frowned, leaning close, his question and voice both soft. "What do they say, honey?"
"Y'know," Thea looked up at her brother and Sam followed her line of sight, watching as his son's face registered understanding. "Just that you and Uncle Dean are…kinda weird."
Sam stopped himself from smiling, knowing his kids wouldn't understand that it was a smile of remembrance and camaraderie, and not amusement. "Thea," he said, drawing her hazel eyes up to him. "Do you think I'm weird?"
She shook her head.
"Do you think Uncle Dean is weird?"
"I think you're both heroes," John interjected.
Sam nodded at his son, but then returned his attention to Thea.
"I think…," she paused. "I think your other job is weird."
"Fair enough," Sam nodded, rubbing her back. "But do you know why we have that other job?"
"To keep us safe," she replied automatically, and with conviction.
"And do you know we don't really talk about it to people?"
At that, Thea frowned. "'Cause they wouldn't get it."
"And they'd get afraid," John interjected, prompting Thea to nod.
"Guys, listen," Sam said, looking at both of them. "I will always tell you the truth. So will your Uncle Dean. No matter how…weird…the truth is. Okay? You can trust that."
They nodded in unison, and Thea's mouth bowed into a frown.
"I'm sorry I took the book," she said, genuine regret in her voice.
Sam looked back down at Thea. "It's okay. Actually, I'm really glad you brought this to me," he said, pulling his daughter close to his side. "You did help," Sam told her. "Just not in the way you thought."
Thea looked up at him quizzically and John sat on the coffee table, clearly ready to hear more.
"See," Sam pulled his good arm from around Thea and began to thumb through the journal. "Dean and I have read this journal more times than either of us can remember. Your uncle has this thing memorized. Lots of this stuff…we were around for."
"How come he had it in the garage, then?" Thea asked.
Sam smiled. "That's where you helped, kiddo," he said, smiling down at her. Seemingly unable to stop himself, Sam leaned over and kissed his daughter on the crown of her dark head.
Castiel knew as Sam did that Dean pulled out their father's journal when he was having a particularly rough day. It was Dean's tell that he needed to retreat, and Sam's signal that he needed to talk to his brother.
"Where's your Uncle Dean, now?" Sam asked.
"Driving with Linny," Thea said. "He had someone at the house that made him frown a whole bunch. But he was smiling when they drove away."
Sam nodded. "Where's Aunt Brenna?"
"She's taking Tuck to the vet," John volunteered. "Shots or something. Told us when she dropped Thea off."
Castiel had never been a fan of the service dogs that rarely left Dean's side. Though they clearly helped balance Dean, Castiel knew they could sense his presence. He caught them looking right at him several times, unblinking eyes a gentle accusation, hair raised on their backs. They served a purpose, he knew. They guarded his friend in a way he could not any longer. But he rather liked his omnipresent invisibility and having Dean's companion alerted to his company was disconcerting at best.
There had been three. The first, Murphy, had been the least astute to Castiel's observations. When he'd passed, Dean acquired Jude. As Jude was getting older, Brenna decided to get a puppy – Tuck – and train him as a service dog while Jude could still assist. Even Castiel was able to admit that the months Dean was without the companion had been rough to observe. The nightmares never really seemed to evaporate.
If there was one thing Castiel wished he could affect, it would be Dean's nightmares.
Sam told his kids to finish their homework and then go out back and play. Stella had called and wouldn't be home until after five; he wouldn't be able to head over to Dean's to talk about what was chewing on his brother until the evening. Castiel suspected this would be a night when neither Sam nor Dean would be at their homes for dinner. Grabbing the two-way radio he always kept on him when his children were outside – the other was positioned on the back porch within easy reach of either child – Sam returned to his office.
The sound of Thea's laughter as her brother pushed her on a tire swing Sam and Dean had tied to the thickest branch of the oak tree in the back yard filtered up through Sam's open window as he sat back down in front of his laptop.
"Púca, huh?" Sam exhaled, his fingers poised on his keyboard.Concluded in Post 20-B, here.