Actions

Work Header

That Second Chance

Work Text:

 

 

 

 

~

An elevator breaks down in the middle of the city. The light blinks on and off, and in those few precious moments of fear and confusion, they stand among the waiting.


They listen to whispered prayers they aren’t to hear and reach out to those who cannot see them. Some worry that they will be there forever and tiny bouts of claustrophobia break out in the confined space. An impatient man growls under his breath and presses the numbered button repeatedly.

A moody child tells her mother, “I told you we should have taken the stairs.”

And at the back, in the corner, a teenage boy has yet to notice anything. With his nose stuck in the same book he’s been reading since he left the top floor to visit his uncaring father, he’s immersed in the writing on the page. Amidst the rising panic, they can hear his calm. His quiet passion to turn the page, his urge to keep reading, keep reading, keep reading. His fingers brush the aged paper just as the woman next to him knocks him by accident.

Scattered, it would appear she has only now grasped how small the space they’re in is. She apologises for knocking the book from his hand, and the boy sighs, having lost his page. He slips it into his back pocket and watches the present company in their varying stages of irritation, paranoia and apparent fear.

He watches.


They watch.

The lights in the elevator brighten once more, and with a clang and a loud noise that vibrates through the box, they’re moving again.

Only thanks to the man by the door, and his incessant button pressing, they’re going up again instead of down.

The moody child will become infuriated and upon the reaching the top floor will run down the stairs four at a time while her mother calls, “Be careful!” down several flights of stairs. The man will duck his head as his cheeks redden and the occupants of the elevator complain in his ear.

The woman will drop her purse as the contents spill out; the teenager will help her pick them up.

They step out together and go their separate ways. She, to find her office if she can remember where it is, and he, back to his father’s office to face the nothingness that waits for him there. He’ll find his forgotten page in his book, and he’ll read while Daddy Dearest blackmails underlings on the phone.

The elevator will ping, seemingly empty. But not so.

Not so.

On the next floor a man and woman will board. Each will duck their head and smile as the other turns away. Both do not understand their feelings are mutual until their fingers brush past one another and their eyes meet.

*-*-*


They share whatever comfort their unseen presence can possess, directed to those whose busy lives never think to look up and see hanging guardians perched upon the traffic-lights.


They lead the dying to the light and show the way to the dead.


They are guides in the darkness.


They are light.


They are perfect and calm and unfazed by all they see.


They are filled with wisdom and understanding but unable to touch; they are inferior to those they watch.


They sit and read poetry as thousands of cars whiz past them every day. They sit above highways and atop skyscrapers. They climb the un-climbable with the speed of thought.


They travel in ways no human could understand. Unless the humans weren’t always...human.

As sentient beings, they are rarely seen or heard. They speak calmly about all that they will never do. Touch. FeelThey wonder at the glory each ant below their dangling feet takes for granted.

Together they are like the growing sigh that comes with each sunrise. A chorus of voyeurs, studying each man, woman and child as they go about their daily lives.

In the City of Angels, messengers swarm in silence and breathe in the humanity all around them that they will never be able to embrace.

*-*-*

On a chair next to a child-sized bed, Dean sits. Clad in black as he always is with no need to change from uniform. He waits patiently as time passes and family comes in and out. They check on her and whisper, and Dean wishes he couldn’t hear them. He does. He does.

The room is quiet now. Each teddy-bear and bunny-rabbit is asleep on their shelves. None scatter the floor, and no toy is out of place. This child hasn’t had the energy to play for quite some time. She murmurs in her sleep, and Dean raises his palm to her forehead. She turns weakly toward the touch, and that simple movement has Dean sighing in sadness.

Amidst a screaming mother and father, and a wailing baby in another room awoken from the commotion, Dean leads the little girl away.

*-*-*

“She definitely knew what she liked,” Dean whispers as his angelic brother sits down beside him on a sign above the interstate.

“Pyjamas?”

“Flannel, with feet.”

“Pyjamas...excellent choice.”

“What else?” Dean asks, turning to Sam’s small book of illegible notes.

“In the elevator of the Bradbury building a man touched a woman’s bare skin by accident but it made her turn and look at him in such a way...”

“And they...?” Dean smirks as Sam nods. “A good day.”

“Do you ever wonder what that would be like?” Sam asks suddenly. “Touch?”

Dean remembers touch, vaguely. But he remembers being without it more.

“No.”

“Yes, you do.”

“Occasionally yes...touch.”

*-*-*

He’s staring at Jessica again. Dean can tell because it’s the only time his brother is ever distracted. Samuel, the great concentrator.

“You’re staring,” Dean smiles as he joins Sam.

“I can’t help it,” Sam answers simply, innocently, never hiding his intentions.

Below,  the crowds increase as morning continues. Bodies flood the streets, and among them all, a head of blonde hair rushes through them. Samuel likes it when Jessica thinks she’s late for class. Her curls bounce as she runs, and the sun glints and shines off each lock as she carries her books in a sprint.

He’s been watching her for a while.

The first time Sam saw her, Jessica, her grandfather’s breath had reduced to wheezing, and her whole family was weeping around his bedside.

Jessica had held one hand while Sam, unseen, had taken the other. At first he had followed her in concern—though he didn’t know that emotion from the rest—but then he had wanted to see her again. An urge, a pull. An emptiness that her being there seemed to fill.

The first time Dean had seen her, Dean, his wise brother who seemed to understand so much more than young Sam...the first time he’d caught his brother’s eyes on her, he’d stopped. Frozen, staring. His breath had caught in his throat, and he stood wondering how long it had been since last he’d seen her.

Since dimensions had intertwined and time had spun around and around and started again from the beginning. He wonders how long it must have taken for these moments to repeat themselves once more. He wonders.

He used to spend days trying to get back, trying to find those that don’t exist. He fought against it but eternity passed.

How long have they been up high? Waiting in the skies, climbing skyscrapers for a better view of a sunrise only they can hear?

Sam talks about her like he doesn’t know anything more than her name. He prefers the library when she’s there. Every book seems better when she’s the one reading them. Dean does, though. He remembers stories told by a grieving younger brother in the dark of night, on the road of a hunt. He remembers just like he remembers existence and the end of existence. The end of humanity and the success of every demon there ever was.

He remembers the end but not the beginning of the new world. He remembers flames that tore through the hearts of millions. He remembers being one of the last ones standing. He remembers facing his brother and the dark eyes...the dark, dark eyes.

He remembers being one of the last to fall.

Sometimes he thinks maybe that’s why he remembers it. To stop it from happening again. To step in, to be the hero, the world’s guardian again and again and again.

He remembers that seconds after he’d opened his eyes he’d understood, for the first time in his life, his old life, his new life, it didn’t matter. In the skies, he understood while Sam did not.

Sam was not to be reminded of the world he helped destroy.

This was their second chance, or maybe fourteenth, Dean had lost count. He’d seen the world turn over so many times now that he supposed it made sense for Jessica to appear once again.

“You could stop, stop staring. Pick someone else to follow around all day.”

“She’s a perfect example.”

“She’s a student. She socialises only when she needs to, she studies, she goes to class, she takes exams. How is she a perfect example? Pick someone whose daring. Someone who takes risks.” Just pick someone else, Sammy.

“I think she would, if she was given the choice.”

Dean thinks he must be right after all; she took a risk with Sam the first time around. Even if she didn’t know it.

*-*-*

Sam smiles at the old woman in her chair. She’s facing the window, leant back with her short white curls tussled and just visible over the back of the seat.

As a breeze swings past the open window, she breathes deeply. A great breath of the morning air. It’s enough.

She smiles when Sam kneels in front of her, and he nods when she calls him Arthur. In a hushed voice she tells him he’s missed and that she knew he’d come back for her. That he wouldn’t leave her for long. Sam touches her palm. Smiling is the last thing she does before following him away.

In death, her clarity lets her see her saviour for who he is. She thanks him, apologises for the mix up, and disappears in a veil of light that’s never too bright for Sam’s eyes.

*-*-*

With the sand beneath their feet, they stand amongst the many on the beach. The tide rushes across the shore, crashes with white froth before being pulled back again. They’re never alone here, always comforted. Sam can stand still for hours like Dean never could.

“I was mistaken for a woman’s husband today,” Sam begins, sensing Dean’s need to speak.

“You were?”

“She called me Arthur, and I hadn’t the heart to correct her.”

“No need.”

“What about you?”

“The little girl asked me if she could be an angel.”

“Again? They all want wings.”

“I never know what to say.”

“Tell them the truth.”

“What if I just make her a little pair of wings out of paper?”

“Did you tell her the truth?”

“Not wholly. I couldn’t. I told her that we were never human—”

“—not strictly true.”

“True enough. For the most part we’re not. I always tell them that. We’re exceptions, Sam, rarities. They’ll never be like we are; I won’t give them hope to have it sullied.”

The difference between them is Sam sees Dean as his brother just as he sees all the rest of them as brothers and sisters. He knows he wasn’t created from dust and love and beauty. He was born, created by man (and woman) as was Dean. But he knows no more.

He has no memories of another life or another world.

Dean’s glad.

“Where they’re going, they won’t mind.” Sam says softly, trying to ease his brother’s conscience.

“I won’t take that risk.”

“How did she take it?”

“She said, ‘What good would wings be if you couldn’t feel the wind on your face?’

“She has a point.”

“A little girl, Sam, she had a point. It isn’t fair.”

“Yes, it is.”

They anticipate the sunrise, smell it in the air, and hear the song that follows in stark contrast to the bustling city far, far away.

But while the others stand with heads held high towards the rays of glowing oranges and reds, Sam and Dean sit behind the lifeguard’s tower with their knees pulled up to their chests. They take too much solace in being separated from the crowd.

Like birds outcast from the flock, they separate themselves because although none of their brothers and sisters will ever cast them aside, they will never feel accepted. Dean has spent a millennia understanding that, but Sam’s mind is naïve and forgetful.

It’s not his fault; it’s his gift, while remembering is Dean’s curse.

“Speaking of the truth, have you seen her today?”

“You know I have.”

*-*-*

With stacks of bookcases that stretch upwards as the staircase entwines upward, its spine a corkscrew in the centre of the building, hands reach out. Soft bodies that glide through the air follow humans as they read. As they open their minds to worlds both real and fictional. As they follow words and expand their vocabulary as they learn.

They suspend belief and have faith that their story will have an ending and they will get there soon.

Sam stands near and likes to read over people’s shoulders at the same pace as they can do. They can hear their thoughts and hear the words ringing around in their heads. He hovers but rarely truly reaches out to embrace their understanding completely.

Dean touches them, he holds tight and feels absolutely nothing.

“When I really worry about something, I don't just fool around.  I even have to go to the bathroom when I worry about something.  Only, I don't go.  I'm too worried to go.  I don't want to interrupt my worrying to go—”

Sam listens to J.D Salinger’s words being spoken by a young woman as he drifts past her spot on the floor between the bookcases. She’s being watched by her sweetheart from the next aisle. With miles of genres between them, her lover sighs and continues to read his own find, distracted by her scent amongst the musty books.

They need to worry and betray time with urgencies false,” the words pause as he takes another look. He thinks about touching her, he thinks about her skin and how soft it is and piercing her eyes can be when she’s angry, and he thinks about the wine stain on her brand new carpet and he thinks about her fury last night that ended in a night of sheer passion.

“and...and...and otherwise, purely anxious and whiny, their souls really won't be at peace unless they can latch on to an established and proven worry and having once found—”

Past Kerouac, past passion and distraction and love, Sam hears Eliot coming from the next row and he follows it in curiosity. He doesn’t want to intrude on a relationship he cannot feel for real.

Meanwhile, Dean drifts over to the children’s section. He’s not alone. Many prefer it here. Children don’t philosophise about what they read. They read and their minds brighten and that light turns to colours, and they see the words in pictures and they smile.

“Mother I can hear the mermaids cry, I hear the mermen sing, and I can hear the sailing-ships all made of sticks and string.”

If Dean closes his eyes, he sees what she sees. The little girl and her poem. A lighthouse in the distance, those ships Causley writes about. Tiny clouds on a great blue sky. The lapping waters, somewhat green and turquoise and shining so bright with each wave, each tide. Small fish dancing beneath the surface jumping up and up.

“And I can see the jumping fish, the whales that fall and rise, and swim about the waterspout that swarms up to the skies.”

Mermaids sway in the sunshine, some upon rocks combing their hair with tails scaled and colourful like the kaleidoscope the child remembers in her room. Others swim and laugh and joke.

“I taste the salt upon my tongue as sweet as sweet can be. Tell me, my dear, whose voice do you hear?”

The seagull flies into view. Grains of sand fly upward as a mermaid on the shore flaps her tail against the harsh ground. Shells spread out beside her and long lost friends swim further away. He sees the whale, giant and blue, with a kind smile and wide eyes.

“It is the sea, the sea.”

A boy sits next to his brother. The younger is bored and huffing and puffing and reciting what he would like to do as soon as he gets home. He would much like to jump under his bed and pry open his box full of toys. He’d like to rifle through them past teddy bears and blocks until he finds his toy robot and plays games until dinner time.

But for now he has to sit quietly until Mummy comes back. While his stinky older brother has his nose buried in a book and completely ignores his boredom.

He has been told twice to find a book, but he hasn’t the patience for words unless spoken by another. He won’t always feel this way. When he is fifteen, his English teacher will take him aside and put a book in his hands. She promises him he will like it, she swears it’s true, and if he can read it by the end of next week, a book report will count towards his final grade.

With the world opened up to him from this one piece of literary brilliance, he will thank her and she will always be his favourite teacher. The one who took a moment to wonder that maybe he could do better if he knew a little more. If he was shown a little more.

For now, Dean smiles at them and admires the elder boy’s concentration on his own book. He hears his sudden thought, his whispered question to himself, “Are ghosts real?” Intrigued, Dean steps forward and stares down at the page. An old woman stands in the illustrated moonlight, her face stern, with a coffee in hand. Her coat, transparent, the colour of the bricks behind her. Everything’s transparent, and at the top of the page it’s written, The Ghost Teacher by Allan Ahlberg.

For a moment Dean hesitates. He’s made a point to avoid any horrors and ghostly tales since he first remembered a life once lived. But this is a children’s tale; it surely won’t remind him of what was left behind in another world, another reality another time and place... Will it?

“The school is forgotten – children forget –

But the ghost of a teacher lingers yet.

As the night creeps up to the edge of the day,

She tidies the Plasticine away;

Counts the scissors – a shimmer of glass –

And says “Off you go!” to her absent class.

She utters the words that no one hears,

Picks up her bag...”

“‘...And disappears.’”

“What?”

“You say pardon,” the older brother reprimands. “Be polite.”

“You can’t make me.”

“I’m the older brother; of course I can make you. Say ‘pardon.’”

“Pardon?”

“There.”

In the further corner Squirdles and Werklings traipse across the Ning Nang Nong, where Monkeys say boo if they’re not silly old baboons and tea pots go Jibber Jabber Joo. A child frowns while another young girl hears the story of a dancing bear, and to another it’s a secret garden that only appears at midnight.

A father sits his son on his lap, puts his own book down and desperately tries to silence the whining of the toddler. He puts his fingers up and starts to sing quietly in the child’s ear. “Two little dicky birds, sitting on a wall. One named Peter, one named Paul. Fly away Peter! Fly away Paul! Come back Peter, come back Paul!”

Unfortunately the high pitched giggles are just as loud—if not louder—than the indignant cries of the little boy. The father sighs and really doesn’t care anymore, he just listens to the laughing, and starts to sing again.

Smiling, Dean walks away in search of his brother.

Already Sam has accompanied avid readers to Lilliput and across the Mississippi river with a boy named Jim. He has listened to the hesitant whispers of a child at war and felt the sadness of a reader as Steinbeck’s Mice and Men came to a bitter end. Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter is read differently by each man and woman there sits. From others he has heard whispers of time and body and soul.


“When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness' sake.  But don't make a production of it.  Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles 'em.” He hears a southern accent quote Atticus Finch and can’t help but think of Dean

But just when his brother decides to appear, Sam is silent. He frowns, turns, and looks down.

He sees a flash of gold and races after a girl he hardly knows while every angel in the library stares after him.

Dean looks away.

*-*-*

Jessica Moore is standing in the doorway to the library when her phone rings, and suddenly she’s hurrying to the local hospital. She doesn’t know she’s being followed.

Racing past reception, pausing for mere seconds to get a room number, she makes her way up the floors. Running up stairs rather than take the time in an elevator she reaches her destination.

“Mary!” she calls upon seeing the older woman pacing in the corridor. “Mom called, what happened?”

Her worry is clear. She has known this family since their move to LA coincided with her own. A kind old couple, willing to take her under their wing.

“Oh, your mother didn’t have to do that, everything’s fine...he just...he’s fine. He insists on going up to that damn cabin and then this happens.”

“Is he okay?”

“He’ll be fine but they’re waiting for more tests to see if they can risk surgery to remove the bullet or not.”

“Oh god, how’d it even happen?”

“A ricochet or a backfire or something... I don’t know. He’s embarrassed so he won’t tell me anything. Thinks he’s some kind of seasoned hunter, damn fool.”

“Sounds about right.” Jessica smiles.

“Oh honey, what am I doing keeping you here? Don’t you have studying to do? You shouldn’t have to be here.”

“You’re friends of the family, of course I had to come. I wanted to.”

Sam stands staring at the both of them, seemingly alike but not related. Jessica and Mary by each other’s presence. As they continue to talk, Sam tilts his head to the side and stares into the ward. At the far end, on the bed by the window a man lies. His leg is propped up on a stack of pillows, and he seems annoyed.

As soon as Sam steps into the room, the man’s head turns. He doesn’t look at Sam, but he’s listening carefully. Breathing slowly.

“Is someone there?” he asks in a low voice, a gruff voice, and Sam frowns considerably.

“It’s Jessica, honey,” Mary responds stepping into the room. “Her mom called, I said she could go, but you know her, stubborn as the rest of us!”

John smiles and greets the young woman, but Sam knows he was talking to him and not his wife. On his way out Sam catches Jessica’s eye and she smiles at him kindly before stepping into the room and out of view.

*-*-*

“He saw you?” Dean asks, surprised to hear his brother’s recount.

“Well, no, he didn’t really see me, he just sort of knew I was there.” Sam explains, still frowning as always.

“It happens.”

“When? When does it happen?”

“It happens, it’s just...some people are more susceptible. The dying, the—”

“He’s not dying. He’s fine.” Sam cuts off his brother.

“He didn’t see you without you wanting him to though, so what’s the big deal?”

“I have spent days in that hospital and not one person has seen me unless they were supposed to.”

“Did Jessica see you?”

“I have to go.”

“Sam...”

“Never mind.”

“Come on, Sammy.”

“Have you ever been seen, Dean? You’d tell me right? And I don’t mean by the dying...”

“They can only see us if we want them too. Why? Why did you want her to see you?”

“To help her.”

“She didn’t need help, Sam, she was fine.”

“She’s hurting still, I can feel it. The panic as soon as she stepped into that hospital. I felt it. I think. I knew it. ”

“They don’t need to see us, Sammy. Not really, we don’t give them enough credit. They can handle themselves pretty well.”

“But he knew I was there, how could he have known?”

“You’re not gonna let this go, are you?”

“No, Dean, I’m not.”

“Bitch,” he swears uncharacteristically as the being he is now.

“Jerk,” Sam replies, surprising his naïve self.

*-*-*

Where others gather beneath planes at lift off and landing, Dean refuses. He stares at machines in the air and is wary. He doesn’t know fear, or pain, or suffering, but he is wary. He has earned the right to be wary, as a watcher of men.

He much prefers the mornings.

The breeze that he cannot feel spreads tiny grains of sand across the shore. Raised bubbles and waves that crash against the shore as the sun rises in the distance. The silhouette of a tiny boat drifts across the steady sea. He can hear the crackle of shells that bounce off of one another before laying, stuck in the wet sand until children’s hands fish them out past lunchtime.

Sam’s distraction has only increased since meeting that man, and Dean decides to see him for himself. At the hospital, he’s barely in the room before a voice speaks up.

“Back again?”

Dean stares. He can’t help but stare. He feels nothing but calm and confusion. This man...with brown eyes and dark hair. He knows him, god he knows him. He shouldn’t, but he does.  He’s even more familiar draped across a hospital bed, he’s not as scarred as Dean’s memories would have him but he’s got his fair share and his stubble is just as Dean remembers. Unshaven and scruffy, but smiling.

That last part seems wrong. It doesn’t fit in his head. He hears a voice whisper, “Don’t be scared, Dean.” Just as the man decides to speak.

“I can’t see you but I know you’re there.” His voice is not that of a man who’s mentally unstable. He’s not making it up. “Look, I’m not going anywhere, and I’m not getting any surgery, so you can shove whatever orders you’ve been given, kid. I don’t know why they sent you, I’m going home soon, so they’re wrong.”

“You sure know something,” Dean whispers to himself, unheard, as he leans in the doorway. Orders. The man thinks his time is up. He doesn’t know Dean’s just looking out for his little brother’s safety.

“I’m fine, I’m healthy and happy and I’m staying put. You’re not taking me anywhere.”

He is happy. Dean can feel it. In this world the only hunting this man does is deer. And his wife hates it. He has a wife. A happy smiling wife with long blonde hair. A happy smiling wife named Mary.

“Who are you?” Dean asks so the man can hear him, now sitting in the chair beside the bed, his face in shadows away from the moonlight and the bedside lamp.

“Jeez!” He tries to catch his breath. “Forgot how quick you can move.”

Dean doesn’t answer.

“You’re young. Real young. What’s your name?”

“What’s yours?”

“John, John Winchester. Like the rifle.”

“Violent.”

“First thing that came to mind.”

“When?”

“When I jumped.”

Dean’s eyes shoot up.

The words aren’t lost on him, nor are their impact. Jumped. That would make him one of the fallen. Dean prides himself on a good memory, but he doesn’t remember that. He leaves without a word, and John sighs in his wake.

He won’t tell Sam to stay away, but he won’t convince him to come back here either.

*-*-*

Samuel steps into the small room, and his presence is recognised immediately. John asks his wife to fetch him more water, and she obliges while grumbling that he shouldn’t get used to this treatment. He holds her hand for as long as he can before their fingertips part.

Sam stares, unaware that he has made himself visible now that they’re alone.

“You’re different,” the man says from the bed. He leans over to find the remote and decides to switch off the black and white film he’d been half watching despite being unable to understand the German there.

“What?”

“You wanna watch anything on TV?” he asks

“You’re not the one...never mind. What’s your name, son?”

“Samuel,” he says with a curious gaze.

“Hello Sam, I’m John, now what brings you here?”

“How...? How do you know when I’m here? How do you know what I am?”

“How do you think?”

*-*-*

By John’s request, Sam takes him to the tallest building in the city. They stare up at the stars and down at the tiny lights of the world below. Sam makes sure John doesn’t fall as he takes him there. They travel by the speed of thought and once there John’s lost for words.

Shown the view he thought he’d never see again short of bungee jumping, he feels the air on his face and appreciates it in so many more ways than Sam ever could. He tells the boy everything he knows, everything he was told once by another when he fell in love with a pretty young blonde.

“You jump. Jump off a bridge, out a window, down, down, down, you decide to do it and you do it, and you fall and you land and you wake up and you’re one of them.”

“One of them,” Sam repeats.

“One of them. He gave these bozos the greatest gift he could ever give. You think he didn’t give it to us as well?”

“Gift...?”

“Free will, son, free will.”

“Free will,” he repeats as the magnitude of the revelation comes crashing down around him. “Free will.”

“The glorious right to choose.”

Sam looks down, and John understands.

“No one likes to think about what they give up when they’re faced with a decision like this. No one, trust me I know.”

“Does Mary know, did you tell her?”

“I tried. But I left it too late; I don’t think she’d believe me now anyway.”

He stares out at the distance at the beauty of the bustling city and its people like ants in their daily lives.

“It’s pretty good down there too,” John says, watching the young man stare from above. “You wake up human. You can smell, you can test. Bleed. You lie, you feed the dog, and you touch her hair and share her breakfast. And she’ll smack your hand away but the most important thing is you’ll feel it. That’s what it’s about, kiddo. And you’ll protect that with your life, I swear to god you will.”

He sees indecision melt away.

“If you want this Sam, it’s yours for the taking.”

*-*-*

 

When the film across Sam’s eyes has been lifted, the veil of complacency torn away...Sam finds Dean in the children’s ward. A part of him is desperate to share all that he’s learnt but surrounded by the dying he stays his words for later on.

There in the ward, they all see him. He and Dean. They smile at him and sleep soundly while Dean reads the writing all around the painted rainbow on the wall. He reads the cards and the messages to get well soon. He knows they won’t.

Around the room Angels sit by children’s bedsides while Dean sits down on the ground, cross-legged and reads one of their books. He wants to re-tell it to them later. Much later.

“Having fun?” Sam asks, gesturing to the colourful pictures on the page.

“It’s happier than the other books,” he explains. “Did you see him?”

“I saw him.”

“And he saw you.”

“I had to talk to him, Dean.”

“I know.”

“He told me things. So many things.”

“I bet he did.”

On their way out, Sam stops, and when he leaves for the maternity ward, Dean follows him without a sound. He knows who Sam’s following, and he’s tired of fighting it. What will be, will be. Instead, he stares fondly at the gurgling newborns while Sam stares at Jessica.

She’s with John’s wife, and they’re watching the children as happily as Dean. 

“Great sense of inspiration,” Mary says. “Calm. Plus it’s nice to get some time to think.”

Dean turns and stares at Mary. Her voice...he stares.

“Didn’t know you had a thing for older women,” Sam jokes.

“You’ve had your Jessica fix for the day, can we go now?”

“I like standing in the rain,” Jessica tells her friend. “In the middle of a field or in the city. Just, standing in the rain. That’s when I feel calm, that’s when I feel...whole.”

Jessica and Mary sit themselves down on the chairs overlooking the babies. Their thoughts are bittersweet, surrounded by life, haunted by death. Jessica thinks to all that she’s lost that year, all of it in this hospital, and always with Sam by her side.

Mary thinks of the children she lost before they were even born. She feels as though she let them down, and Dean desperately wants to comfort her for a millisecond. To show himself to her and to prove things would be all right. That here, where she lived, life was better and just.

They leave them to their moment.

*-*-*

“You’d be falling from grace.”

“That’s the gist of it.”

“You know who else did that? Lucifer and look where it got him.”

“It’s not the same, Dean; you know it isn’t the same.”

“Yeah, yeah, but I can gripe all I want, okay, Sammy? My brother trusts the crazy ex-Marine more than me.”

“No, I don’t.”

“What if he’s lying?”

“You know he’s not. We both know it’s true. Should I do it?”

“You’re asking me?”

“I trust you.”

“You’ve already made your decision, Sammy, don’t act like you haven’t.”

“I’m asking you.”

Dean sighs.

“If you’re sure, if you know, then do it.”


*-*-*

 

 

“Do you have faith?” Jessica asks him in the hospital chapel, and Sam blinks, sitting in the back pew. He begins to stutter, unaware that she could see him, but she continues before he can speak. “Sorry, it’s a personal question, you don’t have to answer.”

“I do,” he tells her. “I do have faith.”

She’d been sitting there a while. Asked to assist Mary in forcing John into a wheelchair if only for as long as it took to get to the car; she had wandered in here on their way out. In search of solace she sat, her eyes fastened on the sacred statue in front of her, standing as it was in front of the stained glass window, even as she spoke to a man she hardly knew.

But who knew her quite well.

“Me too. I try, anyway. Sometimes it’s harder than it should be.”

“Were you praying? Just now?”

“No, I...I like it here. A friend was in a hunting accident but he’s fine, nothing wrong, he’s good to go, just...”

“Memories.”

“Yeah, lots of bad memories.” She turns to smile at him. “Do I know you? You look familiar.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Oh...it was nice talking to you.” She smiles. “I better go.”

“You’re sad.”

“Excuse me?”

“You seem sad.”

“Who isn’t? Right?”

With that she excuses herself, trying not to think of how she indeed was. How much she missed her grandfather and her grandmother. How much time she spent thinking about them as she tried to focus on her work in class. How she busied herself and shut out others to protect herself from future pain.

She tries to keep her faith, but it’s been lacking for some time, and she’s fairly sure it’s nearly gone completely. No miracles stand before her, no reasons to believe. Nothing. Just the cold world outside with the sun glaring down at her.

In class, Sam sits at the front and watches her. Sometimes he can do it for hours, but whenever she looks up he always looks away even though he knows she can’t see him.

 

On the seventh day of doing this, she sees him after class. In the corridor, clad in the same clothes as always, she sees him there waiting. They speak about coincidence and learning and their lives. Sam is vague, but he says enough, and his concern touches her when he asks her again if she’s sad.

She finds it easier to talk to him than anyone else, and she thinks to herself that he reminds her a little of John.

“I knew I’d seen you before! Before the chapel at the hospital. You were talking to John, weren’t you? John Winchester? He and his wife are a friend of the family. How do you know him?”

“We used to...have the same job,” he says simply. “We’re friends.”

“Their niece is having a birthday party, you probably already know, but you should come with me. It’ll be good to have more grown-ups there.”

“I’d like that.”

“Well I’ll see you there.”

As she walks away, he wishes she’d turn and she does. She comes back. He breathes in her being as she asks him his name.

 “Sam, uh, Samuel Messenger.”

“Well, hello Sam, my name’s Jessica, Jessica Moore.”

“It was nice to meet you, again.”

“Yeah, it was nice to meet you too, Sam, again.”

 

*-*-*

As the sunset begins, every head turns to see the man crossing the shore. He breathes deep and calls, “Hello!” to the standing Angels who tilt their head and stare.

“What’s he doing?” Sam asks while Dean shakes his head, and reds and yellows dance across the night sky.

“Ask him.”

John sees Sam alone and grins.

“You know, I can’t hear it, and I miss it, but I can do this!”

He runs into the sea, his feet splash and wet sand flies into the air with droplets of salt water and the occasional shell. Sam follows him calmly into the tide and feels nothing.

But John does.

John can’t hear the harmony of dawn, but he feels the cool water, he feels it on his skin, he feels the goose bumps rise up on his arms and he feels the shivers that abate when he starts to swim. He feels the strain in his muscles as he gets further out to shore, and he feels the weightlessness as his feet tread water with nowhere to stand.

Sam’s still standing though.

“You get points for that,” John says in something Sam assumes to be awe. “But this? This will always be better.”

“Do you ever regret it?”

“Never.”

“Why did you come here?” Sam asks, aware that his brethren have left the sandy shore.

“Jessica told us she invited you, I wanted to make sure you’d come. I remember how everyone gathers here at dusk and dawn. We want you there, Sam. And more importantly, she wants you there.”

Sam frowns.

“She likes you, kiddo. Don’t forget what I told you, Sam, free-will, we’ve all got it.”

*-*-*

 

Dean watches them from afar.

In this reality of feathers and forgotten dreams, John and Mary Winchester are happily married. But their sons are dead, long dead. Lost in the womb. Alone in their name, they spend their days with neighbours and Mary’s huge family. They become a doting aunt and uncle to fill the void inside of them their children left.

They, John and Mary’s lost babies, died before they ever saw the world. They never shot guns or hunted demons. They were killed in a fire and less than a year afterwards, the remaining Winchesters fled from Kansas to Los Angeles to escape their grief.

In this reality, so different to before, Dean is not human, not really. But he remembers everything just as it was. The explosions and the evil that poisoned the earth’s foundations. The world he tried to save. The world he died saving.

Some things are clear as day. Memories of hunting, fighting, killing. But others...his childhood is a blur, loved ones without faces. Sometimes not there at all. Gaps in the atmosphere where his father should stand.

In this reality, he is an angel. A guardian and a guide.

In this reality, Jessica Moore is alive and well, but Sam still loves her and Dean can’t help but know they’re destined for tragedy.

Dean doesn’t feel anything now, but he thinks that if he were human again, if his memory was suffice, he’d be jealous but in the way that’s supportive and kind. As he’s always been with his little brother.

He doesn’t let them see him as Sam does, but he gives his brother a nod before disappearing. It’s his blessing.

In the kitchen, grabbing junk food and supplies, Jessica quizzes Mary about him, about Samuel Messenger, but she doesn’t know that much herself. Only the same, that John and Sam worked together or worked for the same company. She’s not sure.

They watch him sit near the candle-lit birthday cake and see how calm he is amidst the screaming children, hyper on sugar and a happy atmosphere.

Mary can’t help but notice how John’s the exact same way.

That night, Sam makes his decision.

 

*-*-*

He stands with his eyes closed at the top of a building for the first time in his life. Every time he has ever been this high up, his eyes have been open to the wonders of the world—both natural and not so. His ears have been open to the cries of the helpless below and the happy laughter that’s there too.

He has never closed his eyes to any of it until now, and with them closed all he can think of, all he can see, is her face. Her bright shining eyes, her hair caressing her cheek. Her skin turns pink as she laughs, and her lips pull back to show her glistening white teeth. She’s radiant.

For the first time he wonders about taste. He wonders how she tastes the food she eats. He wonders how it might feel to taste her lips upon his own. To touch her skin as a lover might.

He wants this, he knows because he’s never wanted before.


“If you’re sure,” Dean’s voice repeats from earlier.

“I’m sure.” Sam shouts, “I’m sure!”

He dives down; his coat billows in the wind but he won’t open his eyes. Not yet.

Understanding disappears as he falls from grace and lights flash behind his lids. Black and white and grey and harsh light that was once covered in grain as though a camera was shielded by the lining of a lady’s tanned stocking.

When he opens his eyes, he’s barely landed that far from where he jumped, scaffolding that he could not see before has stopped him from sustaining worse injuries.

That’s when he realises the thing he’s feeling, feeling, nerve endings blasting, signals to his brain screaming pain, agony, pain, hurt, pain, pain, pain. He can feel it, he can feel it all. He can feel the blood on his palms and the deep aching of his bruising face around cracked skin that until now has always ever been flawless.

He’s human and the pain he feels now mixed with insane joy and a tiny bit of fear? Proves it.

“Jessica,” he whispers in a wondrous tone. Sound is louder, much louder and suddenly he doesn’t know where he is, or why he is, and he’s more confused than he’s been since...ever.

But he remembers the road to John’s home, and Sam knows he can help him. He remembers that much and he starts running.

“I’m proud of you, Sammy,” Dean says as he watches over his brother always. He feels the same way he did when Sam first went to college. When John was shouting—because he knows now it was John—and Dean couldn’t bear to butt in for the millionth time.

When he dropped his brother off at the bus station and told him to make something of himself as Joe College out in the world. He thinks about that now and watches him with a bemused smile on his face.

Sam charms a young man into letting him catch a ride. He hitchhikes and Dean watches him with a grin.

“My brother, the lawbreaker.”

*-*-*

She’s not at her apartment, Mary tells them as she hangs up the phone but Jessica’s voicemail says she’s taking time off at the family cottage that’s closer to the sea.

“I wish you’d let me clear those cuts up for you,” Mary says in a motherly tone, but John waves a hand and tells her to leave the boy alone.

Sam needs to understand pain a little longer first, that’s all. She hands him a tissue all the same, one that he doesn’t use but instead holds. Feels. Touch.

“I’ll drive you,” John announces, feeling the excitement from the pit of his stomach that he might be a part of reuniting two lovers destined for each other. He knows his angelic friend—now as ungraceful as the rest of them—would not have jumped if he were not in love.

“You’re in no state to drive my car, John Winchester, so you can think again,” Mary tells them, grabbing the Impala’s keys. “I’ll drive.”

*-*-*

 

“You ready for this, kid?” John asks as Sam leaves with a borrowed pair of shoes and fresh cuts still across his skin. As they reach their destination and Mary’s smiling at the romance of it all.

“I think so,” Sam says and thanks them for everything. He shakes John hand, he grips it tight and he thanks him, truly. As the rumbling Chevy drives away, Sam finds her at the small cottage where he knew she’d be.

From the back patio he can see through the porch window; the small home overlooks the sea. The same sea Sam used to stand by to watch the sun rise and set each day. If he closes his eyes, he can smell the salt of the sea past the woodland by the road. He can smell pine and asphalt as he rings her doorbell and waits for love.

“Sam? What are you doing here? How did you even know I was here?” Her questions are surprised but grateful. She sees the blood and bids him inside, already in search of the first aid kit.

He stands dazed in the porch and tells her that Mary and John helped him get there.

“Well I’m glad.” She smiles.

Perched outside of the window, Dean watches the two of them sit. She dabs the cut on Sam’s forehead gently and asks him questions Dean can’t hear. Sam takes her hand, staring so intently and tells her everything. Everything he was, everything he gave up to be there with her.

Everything he hopes for now that he understands what hope is.

He tells her everything, and she nods and she hears and she accepts it all when the unexplained is explained to her so clearly and so sincerely.

“Does Jessica know the truth about you? Does Jessica know the things that you’ve done?”

“No, and she’s not ever going to know!”

“Oh, that’s healthy.”

“Do-over.” Dean whispers at the window and leaves them be.

*-*-*

Left alone to his own devices, unable to watch history repeat itself, Dean strays back to the library. He finds it amusing that he feels solace in a place he once despised.

He doesn’t listen to the children today. Instead he hears soft reading interrupted by too many voices and too many people, and in sympathy he strays to the girl who’s forced to close her beloved book.

He finds her at the top end of a long table, now fully occupied where it wasn’t before. Young teens have gathered to discuss this month’s edition of their school’s paper. The editor, the girl, is listening but...her mind is somewhere else. She’s staring at a dark haired boy with thick eyebrows and an apparent scowl. She’s the only one he’s ever smiled at. The only one he makes an effort for.

When her name is called and they discuss topics and debate deadlines; she feels his dark chocolate brown eyes staring. She can see from the corners of her vision that he’s staring. Or at least, his head is in the right position should it be staring. Is he staring? Maybe he’s staring at the clock? God how long have they been sitting here?

But the clock’s behind his head. She knows because should she be caught staring, she will look at its hands, its numbers and she will sigh dramatically.

But she has yet to be caught.

From her thoughts, Dean has worked out that this editor, this head of the group did not call this get together. She had been here alone, when a small woman had come bouncing in exclaiming what luck, what joy, now they’re all present.

It’s my job to call meetings, and there’s already one scheduled for Tuesday, there’s no reason to be here now. Stupid usurper wants my job, she can’t write to save—

Her fingers brush the book’s bindings. Her fingernails are draped across the gold lettering of the title. It is her favourite book, and it is her own copy. She has read it a thousand times and fully intends on reading it a thousand more. She takes it with her wherever she goes and has embraced the words so rightly that she finds its characters in her daily life.

She sees travellers skulking as men and women lost in time. She sees a man undecided about what direction to walk in and imagines a woman waiting at the end of each road. She passes the rubbish, stares at the apple cores, and for a split second wonders that if she waits there long enough she might see them grow until they’re full and ripe and glistening with dew.

“Next,” she mutters as she hears the dulcet tones deepen until she’s forced to ward off a yawn. She is a good editor, a good writer. She is distracted because it is a Sunday and she came here to read a book and nothing more.

Another topic is discarded and the boy, with his dark hair and his scowl, grunts in response. No one else understands why he’s even here, and the editor is more than aware of the rumours and mutterings of those who work under her.

She’s also well aware of his talent. His graceful prose that she’s seen in his short stories, and his dependable facts in whatever article he’s handed in that month.

She wonders if with all of his hidden intelligence, whether he has noticed her watching him?

She turns away just as he turns to her.

Dean smiles as he looks between them. He reaches out to her forehead and places his palm on the book in her hand.

“It is a world in which every word spoken speaks just to that moment, every glance given has only one meaning, each touch has no past or no future, each kiss is a kiss of immediacy.”

 

“I think we’re done here,” the editor announces with a tired sigh. The bouncing short woman is intent on staying longer, but the rest of the paper’s writers are more than happy to be excused.

The editor doesn’t leave. She finds the passage, reads it again and again, and with a deep breath she runs after him. The boy with the scowl and the dark, dark hair. She turns him around, plants a kiss on his lips and walks away at a brisk pace.

It is not a kiss of immediacy, though she knew she had to act immediately. As she turns she sees his surprised look followed by a timid smile. The one he saves for her.

She thinks her kiss will have a future.

She knows it will.

*-*-*

That night, Sam kisses Jessica. And he touches her and his fingers caress her hip and he moves like it’s a second nature to him. Like he’s taken a bite out of the forbidden fruit and he understands so much, so much.

He’s hungry for her; it’s the only way he can describe it.

He thinks maybe it’s a distant memory that guides his fingers across her collarbone as he plants kisses along her neck and down her chest. She moans in delight as her fingers creep up through his dirty hair.

*-*-*

Dean does as the passage from the editor’s book commanded. He considers a world in which cause and effect are erratic.

He thinks about Sam. He thinks about his fallen brother, lost to humanity once more. He wonders if finally his little brother can be happy. He wonders that if time is the circle he thinks it to be or simply repetitive and unoriginal...will Sam see her again in another generation. Will he wake up to her by his side, or will she be torn away?

He wonders if Sam would have been content as a voyeur until she reached old age more so than the grief that will follow. He wonders if his brother had stayed above with Dean, whether he might have found another that fate was not so hell bent on destroying.

Burdened by the knowledge he can never share, Dean waits to help his brother.

*-*-*

Sam wakes up alone, and he knows something’s wrong. He doesn’t see his brother sitting on the chair beside the balcony with a sad look in his eyes.

He doesn’t see Jessica either. She isn’t the kitchen, she isn’t in the bathroom, but then he finds a note that says she’ll be back soon and they can have their life together. Of truth and honesty and perfection until they die together when they’re old as Sam imagines it should be.

It’s next to candles she’s lit and plates set out ready for her to cook him the best meal of his life. His first meal. His first food. She knows that much.

In the shower, beneath the bursting hot water, he raises his head to the spray. It assaults his closed eyes and nose. It’s very nearly burning, but he can feel the heat and that’s what matters most. His hands aloft, he feels like falling.

The candles in the living room burn out on their own. Their flames disappear at the tiny draft that runs through the room. A sliver of a breeze as clouds thicken and the rainfall starts.

He doesn’t know it, but at that exact moment Jessica’s looking up at the rain that’s falling as she rides her bike to the market. Breathing in the haze that comes with it, the ozone in the air from the pellets of water. Her hands aloft, she feels like flying.

There isn’t a demon, there’s no evil attacker. There’s no one to blame. There’s just a car. There’s a car and the road’s wet and on the bike she rarely uses, Jessica’s attention is to the sky.

Maybe if the sun was shining, maybe if her eyes were on the road, maybe if the road was dry, maybe if she’d decided to walk, maybe if she’d not gone at all...

Maybe if the man in the car had kissed his wife a third time instead of settling for the usual two that morning, he might have given Jessica the seconds she needed to look a little earlier.

To see headlights and hear a horn and swerve to safety.

Instead, she hears them disjointed when it’s already too late, and the car loses control and skids across the asphalt.

There is no pain; the angels make sure of that much at least.

Sam switches off the shower and feels a sudden pull in his chest that’s nothing like the tiny scrapes he got from his fall. It’s a deep ache that steals his breath away, and he has to lean against the wall because his knees are weak and his legs are shaking.

As the steam that covers the mirror starts to disappear, Sam sees sad eyes waiting there that aren’t his own.

“No.”

Before he can think, he’s dressed and he’s running barefoot down the road to where she waits.

*-*-*

When he finds her, there’s a blanket wrapped around her, though he knows she won’t feel the cold. Not the kind that a blanket can take away. Her head is propped up by the coat of the driver who, without a phone signal, has run for help. His car is still there.

Sam can see blood on the broken lights. The rain starts to ease as he kneels by her side and takes her hands in his.

“Sam...” she whispers as he runs fingers through her wet curls. There’s blood there too that he pretends he can’t see.

“You’re okay,” he tells her with a smile. “I’m here now.”

“Sam.” She smiles.

“Stay with me,” he begs her, finally understanding why she used to cry.

“I wanted to show you everything,” she tells him. “You came all this way. Fell so far. I’m sorry.”

“No, Jess.” He touches her face, he feels her. He feels her beneath his fingertips. Her skin’s cold. Cold. “No.”

“I can see them,” she says, and Sam feels the dread run down his spine. Her eyes drift across his shoulder as she stares at them. The Waiting. The Watchers.

“Don’t, don’t look at them, don’t, don’t look at them, please.”

Her eyes are wide and amazed. Sam sees them like a candle burning in a dark room. The light there is fading, flickering in and out of existence.

“Don’t look at them.”

He doesn’t ask them to leave. He doesn’t want to turn around and know that he’s alone. He wants to keep his eyes fastened on her for as long as he can. For as long as she can see and breathe and stay with there with him, he wants to be looking at her.

He wants her to be looking at him, not them.

“Please.”

“Is this it?”

“Yes, Jessica, this is what happens.”

“I’m not afraid. If they ask me what I liked best...If...If...I’ll tell them it was you.”

The sun peeks out from behind the dark rain clouds.

Bathed in sunlight, they take her away and leave Sam weeping by the side of the road, clutching her body desperately, fully aware that she’s gone forever.

*-*-*

At the funeral that can’t be avoided, her parents are introduced to him by other students, by Jessica’s friends, as the one she loved dearly. The one she was with when she died. The one she would speak about in hushed tones and giggles before she even knew his name.

Her soul mate.

They smile weakly and nod. They pay their respects and weep as silently as they can for their young daughter.

Sam doesn’t speak. He doesn’t say a word. He lays a pink carnation on the coffin amidst the blood red roses of everyone else there.

With John by his side, a strong hand on his shoulder, he tries to see past the rain that’s falling and find closure or understanding.

When the procession is over, only Mary stands with the two men.

John wonders if he’d kept his mouth shut whether or not he’d even be here. He hates that he’s subjected the boy to the agony of loss so soon. He hates that he can’t tell Sam how to make it better because only experience and time and years going by as a human being can help you ever even begin to contemplate loss.

Angels don’t understand it and right now, Sam’s as helpless as a child.

He’s waiting for the warmth he had up there, but he feels nothing. No comfort. There’s nothing they can do for him to ease any of it. They’re as lost as he is, they just don’t know it.

“Come on, kiddo,” John says as his wife leads them to the car. Sam stays with them for as long as he needs, and he spends his mornings locked away in the bathroom staring at the mirror for the sad eyes that might give him hope.

He sees nothing.

*-*-*

In grief, he climbs as high as he can. He finds a mountain, and scales it in the rain. The rain that stole her from him. His palms are scraped to hell and there are thousands of little cuts and bruises across his skin from unsteady feet. Ungraceful and human.

When he gets to the top, he wants to scream, but all he can do is sit and watch the world below in silence. Alone.

Much like he used to with Dean by his side.

“Hang in there, Sammy.”

Sam can’t hear him, but he knows his brother’s there.

*-*-*

“Was it you?” Sam asks the darkness of his living room. You have a living room.

“No, Sammy.” The darkness replies, “It wasn’t me.”

Sam looks to the right of the sofa. His heart heavy, his eyes sunken and his soul in pieces. This is loss, a voice murmurs in the back of his head. This is anguish and grief.

“Go away.”

“No.”

“I said, ‘go away!’”

“And I said ‘no.’”

“Is this punishment? Is that it? Is she dead because of me?”

“Stop it, Sam.”

“It’s my fault! You should have warned me, why the hell didn’t you?”

“I said ‘stop it!’”

“What are you doing here, Dean?”

“Checking up on you, kiddo.”

“I don’t need—”

“I wanted to, Sam.” The silence could stretch on until eternity. Dean knows that. “What’s it like?” He decides to break it.

“Wonderful,” Sam whispers, blinking at tears he can’t be rid of.

Their old lives never had that description. Dean wonders why he remembers it so much more than Sam does. He wonders why he’s always looking over his shoulders for demons to be creeping up on them, but Sam—Sam was at peace.

“If you could do it all over again, would you? If you’d known, would you still have done it?”

Would you have fallen? Would you have risked it? Would you still leave me here?

Sam thinks for a moment. Remembers his greedy senses. Remembers her perfume and shampoo. The smell of her cooking and her footsteps across the kitchen floor. He remembers how her hair curled and how it bounced on her shoulder blades when she was jogging in the morning. Her smile, her glittering eyes so innocent and blue before they were glazed and broken. Dead and cold.

One breath, one kiss, one touch...he’d rather that than an eternity without it.

One.

“Yeah,” Sam whispers to the dark. “I would.”

That night he reads a book because he thinks Dean would like it, he thinks Dean would enjoy it and he knows his brother’s there with him still.

*-*-*

The street is bustling, people swarm towards him. Panic rises in his gut as he walks one step, two steps, three steps forward. A young man, no older than him, bangs into Sam. Their shoulders collide and knock one another back.

They stare at each other and feel familiarity like no other. As estranged brothers with nothing more than an inkling at relation. Both imagine wings unseen and falling from a great height as they stare into weathered faces and wise eyes.

“Sorry,” Sam says earnestly.

The man stares at him. “Yeah, me too.” He says sadly before walking away in the direction he was headed.

*-*-*

John tells him he’s sorry. He’s sorry that they both jumped, but only one of them got the girl. That only one of them succeeded.

“No,” Sam stops him. “I had her. I did. Don’t be sorry. I’m not.”

John nods, still upset himself and in the Winchester’s garden they have their own little get together as they watch the sunrise while grieving and hear nothing but the cries of the birds as night falls.

*-*-*

This is worry. Dean realises as his throat clenches and stomach cramps whenever he thinks of Sam and his grief. Sam and his never ending hurt.

“Are you an angel?” the little girl asks as she sits up in bed and peeks behind him in search of feathers.

“Yes, I am.”

“Where are your wings?”

“Hidden,” he says with a smile as the girl’s eyes light up.

“Will I get wings too?”

There’s a tiny cross hanging on a small gold chain around her neck.

“No,” he says carefully and gently. “But you’ll be going home, and that’s much better.”

“Why do you have wings?”

Dean thinks of his old life, of war and pain and never ending fighting and a quest that didn’t stop in death. They call it a reward, to stand guard over the world, unable to feel. Numb.

“We were never like you,” he tells her, and for the most part, it’s the truth.

“Do I have to go with you?”

“We can wait a little while if you like.”

She hears footsteps on the landing, dim voices. She looks back at the bed, her bed, with her body on top of it. She beckons for her angel to bend down, and when he does, she whispers in his ear.

“I don’t want Mommy to cry.”

She stands back, biting her lip.

“I know,” Dean whispers back, holding out his hand for her to take. “Ready?” he asks, like they’re starting a race and it’s sports day at school not...this. She nods and takes his outstretched palm in hers. She doesn’t look back, not even when her bedroom door creaks open and her mother rushes forward with tears.

Her angel guides her home.

*-*-*

When Dean blinks and finds himself on the beach as the sun sets with a great big sigh, Sam stands next to him. Dean wonders if he can even be seen, and if not, wonders how Sam could know where to stand. Dean stares at Sam, while Sam stares ahead.

He turns, smirks, and runs towards the water. Dean steps after him out of habit but stops himself. Sam jumps into the sea with a huge splash. He writhes in the water, tussled and turned by the tide. Diving down and racing up, gulping for air, before plunging back into the blue.

Sam swims in the same erratic way that John Winchester had done upon deciding to rub this in their faces.

Sam’s laughing at the water that stings his sinuses. He’s nearly choking, but he doesn’t care.

“You’re insane!” Dean cries from the shore and when Sam turns the many he imagined are nowhere. Only Dean stands alone in black.

“I know!” Sam calls back, but when he lifts his head from the second tide, the beach is bare and his brother is gone.

He won’t see him again until the end and though old and aged as Sam will be, Dean will look no different.

“Will I get wings?” Sam will ask before coughing harshly and bringing his shaking palm to his bloody lips. Crimson spills on wrinkled hands.

Dean won’t speak, but he’ll hand his brother a pair made from paper with a hidden smirk.

“Origami skills? Jeez you think you know someone...” His voice will be tinged with pleasant sarcasm, and his words carry an accent he never had before. Things Dean never thought he’d hear again from Sam.

He’ll ask Sam what he liked the most, and after Sam lists everything he’s felt and done and thought and experienced, Sam will say with a tiny voice, “Her.”

With an outstretched palm and a knowing smile, Dean will lead his brother home.

-Fin.

 


Further Disclaimer: I tried to include the author next to the quote as much as possible but sometimes it just made it too much, soooo, the editor’s book “It is a world in which every word spoken speaks just to that moment, every glance given has only one meaning, each touch has no past or no future, each kiss is a kiss of immediacy.” is Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. Don’t own it, or any other literary quotes included. Nor do I own City of Angels, the film this fic was based on for reel_spn, or the original Der Himmel über Berlin that Hollywood stepped on. Thank you and goodnight.

.