Title: From Yesterday, Chapter 18
Characters: Dean, Sam, and OCs
Disclaimer/Summary: See Part 1: Prologue
But I didn't write it for everyone. I wrote it for me and held out a small, bright hope that some of you would enjoy it, too. I send out a very sincere thank you to those who've read and especially those who've taken time to leave me your reviews and encouragement.
There were many ways I could have gone with this ending, but only one that would let me sleep at night. Again, I know this ending won't please everyone, but I truly hope you enjoy and that you feel your time spent with this story has been worth it.
Note: there are mature scenes in this chapter as well. Read with that caution.
Part 1: Prologue - Chapter 9, Part 2: Chapter 10, Part 2: Chapter 11, Part 2: Chapter 12, , Part 2: Chapter 13, , Part 2: Chapter 14, , Part 2: Chapter 15, , Part 2: Chapter 16, Part 2: Chapter 17
art by thruterryseyes
"I saw a falling star."
Dean sniffed as the warmth of the house chased the lingering chill of night that clung to him despite the season. He half turned to follow Stella's voice and saw her eyes were pinned to Sam as his brother followed him inside and closed the door. Stella was sitting on the couch, the TV muted in front of her, the curtains over the window across from her parted to reveal the night sky.
"Made a wish," Stella continued. "But I'm thinking it won't come true."
Dean looked over his shoulder at Sam, wondering what his brother had told her in the time he'd been away, but one look at Sam's sad eyes and bowed mouth told him that he'd not said everything that he'd needed to. Taking a breath, Dean held his hand out for Sam's empty beer bottle, intending on trashing them before escaping and allowing Sam and Stella privacy to talk, but Stella stood from the couch, the muted TV completely forgotten.
Instinctively, Dean drew back from her, not wanting the confrontation, but she planted herself in his path, her dark eyes now taking them both in.
"Want to know what it was? My wish?"
"I think I can guess," Dean remarked.
She looked at him, pupils small, mouth tight. "Really? Because if you're right, then you can make it come true."
"Stella—" Sam started.
"No." She held up a finger, not taking her eyes away from Dean. "Tell me I'm wrong."
"I can't," Dean said quietly, feeling the weight of his words.
"You talked to Brenna?" Sam asked from behind Dean.
Stella didn't take her eyes from Dean's face, her gaze almost daring him. "Yes."
"What did she tell you?" Sam asked, shifting so that he was still more-or-less behind Dean, but in full view of Stella.
"Enough," Stella snapped, darting a heated look at him. "You should have told me," she challenged. "Or actually," she returned her eyes to Dean's, "you should have. This is all happening because of you, isn't it?"
Dean heard Sam take a breath, but answered before his brother could step in. "Yes."
"Dean!" Sam protested.
"Set him free," Stella pleaded, her chin wavering and tears pooling in her eyes. "I don't know what you're walking into, but I know he won't let you go alone. Just set him free. Please."
Dean felt the air pressed from his lungs as he looked at her, unable to speak, feeling himself slowly turn to stone from the inside out. It had been so easy to decide to finish the amulet's spell when he was alone. So easy to see what he had to protect his daughter from. And it had felt so right to allow Sam to join him in this fight, a united front to the end.
But in front of him stood Sam's future – one that shouldn't have to end in pain and blood. And Dean realized he'd been wrong to think it was possible. Wrong to let Sam anywhere near this decision.
"Wait," Sam slipped around him. "Just wait."
Dean watched, numbly, as Sam took Stella by the shoulders, gripping her gently. "Hey," he said. "Eyes on me. Look at me."
She finally did and over Sam's arm, Dean could see her face fold with emotion.
"You remember what I told you earlier? How this was my choice? Not his?" Sam asked her.
"Yes," she practically whimpered.
"It's still true, Stella."
"But…I don't even know why!"
Sam rubbed her arms gently, his voice a low whisper. "Because. It's who I am."
"What are you going to do, though?"
"Dean…," Sam paused and Dean heard him swallow. "Dean has to chase away the demons. And I have to be there to help him."
"What are you going to do, Sam?" Stella challenged. "If he's the one who has to chase them away—"
"I don't know!" Sam broke in, his voice trembling with control, trying to not yell in his frustration.
Dean couldn't breathe. The room seemed to pulse around him, going bright and then dim with every back-beat of his heart. He had made this choice; it was his only choice. But bringing Sam with him? How did he make that work? How did he let his brother step in front of the train with him when his whole life had been keeping Sam off the tracks?
"What if this were you?" Sam handed back to her. "What if it were Joe, and you knew he had to go into a battle and there was even a slim chance your being there could save him?"
"That's not fair," Stella whispered.
"Because Joe—" Stella's voice broke and her eyes shot over Sam's shoulder at Dean. "Joe's dead. And he never had any special powers."
"Dean died for me once," Sam reminded her. "He almost did it again a few months ago."
Dean was dizzy from lack of air. He tried to even it out as he listened to them, but it was a losing battle.
"I can't not try," Sam said finally. "It's the only thing I can do."
"Will you come back to me?" she sniffed, tears once balanced on the edge of her lashes spilling down her cheeks.
Sam pulled her to him, leaning his forehead to hers. "If I can, there's nothing that would keep me away."
His heart pounding, breath coming in shallow bursts, Dean took a step back, seeking the wall, the door, something to put his back against, needing balance. He didn't even notice that she'd stepped into the room until Brenna suddenly slipped her hand in his. At her touch, Dean looked over at her, eyes wide with surprise and not a little desperation.
Brenna met his eyes squarely, tightening her fingers on his and he felt his heartbeat starting to slow, his breath beginning to even out. Without a word, she led him from the room. Dean didn't look back at Sam, didn't check to see how his brother was handling that situation, he simply kept his eyes on Brenna and allowed her to lead him away.
Her back was tight; the strap of the black tank top slipped down the slope of her shoulder as her arm extended behind her to lead him forward. Her long hair was twisted into a messy knot at the back of her head; he could see the tattoo on the back of her neck, her faith a brand that grounded her in a belief strong enough to have once brought him back from death.
Without a word, she stepped into the bathroom, closing the door behind them, only then releasing his hand. Crossing to the shower, she turned on the water hot enough he saw steam almost instantly rise from behind the pulled curtain. Turning to face him, she lifted a hand and gently stroked the left side of his face, her fingers tracing the scars that framed his eye, lines of pink that would always lend witness to the stand he took against the Devil.
Letting her fingers linger momentarily on his lips, she lifted her eyes to his and he saw that though her pupils were blown wide, they were her eyes. Muddy green-gold, not predatory. She wasn't seeing into him, she wasn't looking for anything he wasn't ready to share. She was simply with him, right here as she'd promised.
Dean traced his hands up the curve of her side, lifting her tank top over her head, letting it fall to the floor. She followed suit with his T-shirt, then stepped out of her jeans, waiting as he did the same, his boots hitting the floor with heavy thuds – a reminder of the reality they couldn't escape even surrounded by the sheltering steam of the shower.
Turning from him, Brenna pulled the elastic band from her hair, letting the tangled strands fall down her back as she stepped into the shower. Dean followed, watching as she slipped beneath the water, shutting her eyes and tipping her head back. Closing his mind to everything, Dean reached out and let his hands trace her wet shoulders, the curve of her breasts, the bend of her hips, stepping close as he felt himself shudder.
"Let it go," she whispered against his neck as the water fell like thunder on the top of his head, soaking his shoulders, caressing the bruises on his back. Her fingers followed the water, skimming across the healing skin on his side, a knotted scar along his collar bone, the tattoo on his chest, but when she touched the scar along his back, he stiffened.
"Just let it go, Dean," she repeated, lifting her face to his, the water slipping over her features like a mask.
"I can't," he replied, his voice rough. "There's too much."
He blinked the water from his lashes and watched as her eyes went predatory, turning him to glass as her hands slipping up his neck as she pressed her body flush against him beneath the water.
"Let me see," she said. "All of you, Dean."
Without warning, he felt something slip loose inside of him, a wall evaporating and allowing memories long suppressed to swim upward and break the surface with such force, he gasped. Brenna caught his face in her hands, pulling his mouth to hers beneath the water, and seemed to drink in the images, the voices, seeing and feeling each one as he did.
Dad? I know I've left you messages before. I don't even know if you'll get 'em…. But I'm with Sam. And we're in Lawrence. And there's somethin' in our old house. I don't know if it's the thing that killed Mom or not, but…I don't know what to do. So, whatever you're doin', if you could get here. Please. I need your help, Dad.
He pressed close to her wanting to drown the memories under the hot spray of water even as he relished each moment, each experience. The fact that this time tomorrow he may not be able to feel this pain, this anxiety, these memories was beginning to sink in like virtual claws in his heart. He wanted to remember what it had felt like to be in those moments, even the ones that weren't real.
Why is it my job to save these people? Why do I have to be some kind of hero? What about us, huh? What, Mom's not supposed to live her life, Sammy's not supposed to get married? Why do we have to sacrifice everything, Dad?
Each resistance of his path, each time he voiced how much he wanted to stop, to just stop and find some other way of living, shook through him. Each time he'd wanted to shout out No! Not this way! Not this time! burned up from his heart to the backs of his eyes and he suddenly couldn't breathe.
He pushed away from Brenna, stepped out from under the water, putting his back to the cold tile at the foot of the shower, trying to not feel the hand on his shoulder, a mock encouragement spurning him on, forcing him forward, saving him from one Hell to damn him to another. He didn't realize that low moan of misery he could hear beneath the rush of water against porcelain was actually coming from him until he saw Brenna put her fingers to her lips in reaction.
Moment after moment where he'd silently wished for some other way to live…some way that didn't involve pain. And death. They all swam up, begging to be heard, to be recognized.
I mean, ever since Dad...all I can think about is how much this job's cost us. We've lost so much. We've...sacrificed so much.
Brenna's hand was in his once more, pulling him away from the wall, lending him her breath to help calm his racing heart, help ground him in this and now and because. There really wasn't another way. There wasn't an out. He was a hunter; he was the perfect sacrifice. He knew he had to do this. He knew there had been a reason he'd been chosen to bear this burden of light.
I've been doing some thinking and…well, the thing is…I don't wanna die. I don't wanna go to Hell.
He felt Brenna shudder against him, her mouth once more on his, her hand moving around to the back of his neck, as if she were trying to pull him inside of her. He had a brief flash of an iron box, somewhere safe from all of this.
Keep fighting. Take care of my wheels. Sam, remember what Dad taught you, okay? And remember what I taught you.
He'd once wanted to put Sam in a box like that. Close the lid and keep him safe from the world. When he hadn't been enough to stand between Sam and the darkness, he'd wanted to hide him away.
Well, then you guys are screwed. I can't do it, Cas. It's too big. Alistair was right. I'm not all here. I'm not—I'm not strong enough. I guess I'm not the man either of our dads wanted me to be. Find someone else. It's not me.
Brenna pressed against him at that flash, her body rocking as he remembered the pain, the hopelessness of that moment. He wrapped his arms around her and pressed her against the slick tile wall of the shower, covering her body with his, the water pounding on his back.
You better kill me now. Or I swear, I will find a way to kill you. And I won't stop.
He could end this, end the demons searching for him, end the danger to his family…to his daughter. He could be that iron box, putting them inside and locking them away from the evil that targeted them. There may always be evil in the world, but this evil wanted them and he wasn't going to let that happen. Not to any of them.
Not to Brenna or their daughter. And definitely not to Sam.
Sam, it's okay. It's okay. I'm here. I'm here. I'm not gonna leave you. I'm not gonna leave you.
Brenna was crying. He could taste the difference of her tears from the shower. He felt her rock with his pain, with the impact of the memory of the light cutting through him, fusing him with the amulet, binding him to Sam. He couldn't stop her from seeing, from knowing, so he poured himself into the memory, lifting her so that her hips fit against his and slipping into her so that she gasped, throwing her head back with the sensation.
Brenna flung her hands out, pressing her palms flat against the tile wall, bracing her body between the wall and him, holding his waist with her thighs. It took all of his concentration to hold them together, to block out the memories, the visions that he could still feel coursing through her as he held her close, as he rocked inside her.
It took all of his strength to keep her from slipping from his grasp, to keep his legs locked, his feet solid on the porcelain floor, but the increased focus sent his senses spinning and soon he could tell she was seeing nothing but the light and feeling nothing but the pleasure until they exploded together, sagging against the wall of the shower as they caught their breath.
His forehead against hers, Dean breathed through the cooling water droplets that splashed from his lips.
"It's the only way."
"No," she shook her head. "But it's the right way."
Without another word, she shut off the water, climbing naked from the shower and crossing the room to grab two towels. He watched her move, drinking in the sight of her body, softer than before, the signs of the baby she'd carried still in the small swell of her belly, the curve of her hips. She tossed him a towel and tilted her head, watching him.
"You're like a map," she said, her eyes tracing him as he wrapped the towel around his waist. She looked up, taking in the scars around his eyes. "Your body is a map of your world. Your scars are like…mile markers."
"It's not been an easy life," Dean shrugged, suddenly uncomfortable under her stare.
"Has it been a good one?" she asked, pulling her wet hair around to the front of her and using the towel to wring out some of the water.
"I don't know how to answer that," he replied honestly.
He grabbed his T-shirt and pulled it on, thinking suddenly of his father. Of Sam. Of miles and miles of road. Of waking up in strange motel rooms and walking the halls of unfamiliar schools. Of friends who taught him the right way to sharpen a knife and how to make a silver bullet. Of reading directions on cartons of food to learn how to cook. Of getting drunk before he was legal to drive just so he could block out the bad dreams. Of knowing how to rebuild the engine of the Impala and yet failing geometry.
Of the reality that the only moments in his life where the gentle feelings of true emotion with a woman had ever lasted, one of them had walked away in pain. Or not at all.
"You've saved a helluva lot of people, Dean," Brenna said, as if seeing the dark path his thoughts had wandered down. "You left your mark on this world. I'd say that's a good life."
Dean looked down, letting sadness creep into his tone. "Aren't people who live good lives supposed to be rewarded?"
Brenna didn't reply. She twisted her wet hair into a braid down her back, then tucked the end of her towel under her arm and stepped out of the bathroom, leaving her clothes on the floor. Dean followed her silently, noting that the living room was empty, the radio under the kitchen counter once more turned on as it had all those nights before. Brenna stepped quietly into his bedroom and he slipped in behind her, light from a full moon spilling through the high, uncovered window at the top of the wall opposite his bed and illuminating the small space.
Aislinn slept on the pallet created for her in the corner, Murphy sprawled out on the floor beside her, his head across her legs. Brenna dropped her towel, found a T-shirt from his pile of clothes and pulled it on. Not knowing what else to do, he followed suit and stretched out on his bed, waiting as Brenna slipped in beside him, her head on his shoulder.
"There's your reward," she whispered, her eyes on Aislinn. "A piece of us – of you – walking around in the world."
"I missed so much. I wish I could have seen her from the beginning," he confessed, feeling as though the time for keeping such desires a secret had passed.
"You can, in a way," Brenna told him, shifting her head from where she'd left a wet spot on his shoulder and reaching up to lay a hand over his eyes.
Stopping himself from pulling away from her touch, Dean took a breath and suddenly realized he was no longer looking at the black backs of his eyelids, but instead saw Aislinn's first cry, a raging, lusty sound that had Dean catching his breath, suppressing an instant feeling of protection and wonder as tears burned the backs of his eyes.
In quick succession, he saw her shift and change, filling out and becoming plump and happy as she learned to sit up, crawl, laugh. Her hair grew longer, her eyes grew wiser. In a few seconds he lived four years of his daughter's life, the emotion of the experience almost more than he could handle.
He pushed Brenna's hand away and turned his face away from her, looking at the blank wall, struggling for breath, for calm, for a way to keep his damn emotions in check. He forced himself to remember what it was like to retreat from everyone, to forget how much he needed people – certain people, anyway. He took a slow, shuddering breath and let Brenna settle against him again, quietly allowing him the space he needed to process what he'd just seen.
Dean slipped almost unknowingly into sleep, lulled by the warmth of the woman against him, the sound of the music through the door, and the weight of exhaustion from the battle just days before. For a moment, he let himself think that he'd be able to gather a few hours of peace, but he should have known better.
Hell, as always, was waiting for him.
This time in the form of an empty room, Alistair strapped to a steel wheel in the center of a Devil's Trap. Dean winced as he watched himself – eyes cold and distant, face a mask of indifference – pour salt down the demon's throat. He was methodical, his movements easy, sparing little by way of effort. He was outwardly untroubled by Alistair's taunts, but he could remember how they cut him inside, how he bled out from the truth of those mocking words.
When Alistair took him by surprised, stepping free from the Devil's Trap, Dean tried to duck away from the blow he knew was coming, feeling desperate to escape reliving that pain…but then suddenly it was gone. The room, the fear, Alistair.
All of it, just…gone.
He was standing in an empty street of a town he didn't recognize. Discarded newspapers blew loosely around, tangling up with his feet as he moved carefully forward, peering out through the metallic light of a fading sun. He could hear something in the distance. It sounded like…music?
Confused, but feeling oddly safe, Dean moved toward the sound, relieved, simply, to be away from the dark weight of his own memories. He passed empty storefronts with names painted on the windows in stranger lettering – words he couldn't read. There wasn't a single car on the street or a single person inside the buildings. It almost seemed like he was walking through someone's imagination of what a town might look like. He wondered if he touched one of the buildings if it would topple over, held up only by a spare thought.
As he grew closer to the only sound echoing through the silence, he realized he recognized the voice: Brenna. Singing.
"…Achós rud égo dtagannsérismo leor, go mba cheartdoma ardú agusníba chóir duit…feicfidhméardúgo réidhagusbeidh mé glaochgo bog, oíche mhaithagus áthasa bheith in éineachtleatgo léir…."
He stepped through the door of a house with no roof, walls the only thing separating the building from the street, and he felt as though he'd shrunk himself into a child's dollhouse. Brenna sat in the corner of the room, still dressed in the T-shirt she'd borrowed from him earlier that night. She was curled up in a plush rocking chair, Aislinn on her lap, her lips close to her daughter's forehead as she sang. In a repetitive, soothing gesture, she brushed the child's hair from her face and tucked it behind an ear.
"Hey," Dean called softly.
Brenna stopped singing and looked up, surprise plain on her face.
"What are you doing here?"
Dean looked around at the pink and white room, the myriad gathering of stuffed animals along the floor, the canopy bed, the shelves lined with books, and then looked back at Brenna.
"Where is here?"
"My room," Aislinn said.
Dean blinked, looking down at the little girl, her green eyes seeming to swallow her face. "Your room?"
Brenna shifted so that she and Aislinn were now both facing him. "This is where she goes when she has a bad dream," Brenna explained.
"Wait…," Dean frowned, holding out a hand in resistance. "You're saying…we're in her head?"
Brenna nodded. "She pulls me in when she gets scared. I sing to her and she's able to go back to sleep."
"She pulls you…," Dean tapered off. "Like through your…connection or whatever?"
Brenna nodded, still looking troubled. "Why are you here?"
"You think I know that?" Dean pointed to his own chest.
"I want him here," Aislinn said, shifting so that she could look up at her mother's face. "Am I in trouble?"
Brenna looked down at the little girl. "Honey, did you pull Dean in here with us?"
Aislinn nodded. "He's scared. He was breathing funny."
Dean frowned, looking away.
"Linny, that's what Murphy is for," Brenna told her. "He helps Dean not be scared."
"I can, too."
"Is this…normal?" Dean asked quietly, drawing Brenna's eyes back to him. "I mean…y'know, druid normal?"
"Not really sure there is a normal," Brenna replied, helplessly. "She's never done this before. I didn't know she could."
Aislinn squirmed until Brenna set her free and she padded in stocking feet over to Dean, looking up at him with such a pointed expression that Dean was compelled to crouch down to her level.
"You can stay here," Aislinn said, her voice pitched low, though Dean sensed that Brenna heard her words. "You don't have to leave."
Dean tilted his head. "Do you go here a lot?"
Aislinn nodded. "Sometimes," she admitted. "I can talk in here."
"Who do you talk to?" Dean asked.
Aislinn pointed at her stuffed animals. "Them."
Dean nodded. "They good listeners?"
"You feel safe in here?"
Dean looked down at his hands, absentmindedly rubbing at the amulet scar on his right, thinking about how he'd felt that same sense of safety approaching the dollhouse-like room.
"It's not red," Aislinn said, startling him.
"What do you mean?" he asked in a strangled voice.
"Out there," Aislinn pointed toward a window without looking, "you have a red hand. It's not red here."
Dean dragged his hand down his face and looked over Aislinn's shoulder at Brenna. What do I say to that? As if hearing his thoughts, she pressed her hands to the sides of her face, eyes wide in wonder, clearly out of her element.
"Aislinn," Dean whispered. "Do you know who I am?"
"Mama's friend," Aislinn answered immediately. Dean nodded and looked down trying to hide his disappointment. The child was so astute at observing other things, he'd half-way hoped she'd guessed who he was to her. He felt a small hand resting on the top of his head. "My friend."
Dean looked up, Aislinn's hand slipping from his hair to his cheek and resting there.
"I am your friend," he said. "And I will always watch out for you."
"Like a lighthouse," Aislinn said, dropping her hand from his cheek.
Dean almost laughed. "A lighthouse?"
"A lighthouse watches for the boats. You're like a lighthouse for us. So we don't get hurt."
Dean swallowed hard past the lump in his throat. "Yeah, that's right. And I gotta go back out there."
Aislinn looked down and he saw her chin tremble. "Will you come back in here with me sometime?" she asked, the sound liquid with suppressed tears.
"If you want me to," Dean replied.
Aislinn nodded not looking up. "I like you," she whispered.
"I like you, too," Dean whispered, his voice tight with emotion.
"Caomhnóir," Aislinn said, once more studying him.
Guardian, Dean remembered.
"Do you want to go back to your Mama?" Dean asked.
Aislinn shook her head. "I just wanted you to see my room," she replied. "We can go now."
Dean stood and looked at Brenna, but before he could do anything, the world went dark and he was once more gasping for breath, swimming to a surface, fighting to free himself, though something held him down. At last he managed to open his eyes, struggling out of the sheets twisted around him, then sat up and looked around.
Murphy stood next to his bed, his head on Dean's thigh, the back of Dean's hand wet from the dog's attempts to wake him. Brenna and Aislinn were still asleep, both looking peaceful and completely untroubled by what had just transpired. It had been too real, too visceral for him to have imagined it or simply conjured it up in his own dream.
He'd been there – they'd been there – inside his daughter's mind, where she'd felt safe.
Sagging back against the headboard of the bed, Dean let Brenna shift until she was spooned against him in her sleep, and rested his hand on Murphy's head. The music from the other room filtered in through the closed door and he focused on the familiarity of the sound, getting his bearings.
With all the fun to have, to live the dreams we always had… oh, the songs to sing, when we at last return again. Sending off a glancing kiss, to those who claim they know, below the streets that steam and hiss, the Devil's in his hole….
In a few hours he would have to find a way to stop a demon army…and it wouldn't come without a price. It was apparent to Dean that he had always been destined to become a sacrifice. To save Sam, to stop the Apocalypse, to spare his family…it was always supposed to be him. Rolling his head to take in the sleeping figures near him, Dean felt his mouth curve into a sad smile.
He could sacrifice for them.
Sam would watch over them after he was gone, that much he knew. He would be Aislinn's lighthouse one last time. And on that thought, finally, he was able to close his eyes and let true oblivion overtake him.Chapter 18 continued in post 19-B, here.