“What?” Other Cas defended himself to Other Dean’s look. “I like ‘Past You’.”
2014 Dean rolled his eyes and smoothed the map out on the table. “Lucifer is here,” he said, pointing at a small red circle. “Now, I know the block and I know the building.”
Cas leaned forward to look at it. “Oh, good – it’s right in the middle of a hot zone.”
“Crawling with Crotes, yeah,” Future Dean said resignedly almost before Cas was even done. “You saying my plan is reckless?”
Dean – normal Dean – had no idea why they were so head-to-head, so aggressive to each other, but there was obviously something going on that he didn’t know about.
“Are you saying we, uh… walk in straight up the driveway, past all the demons and the Crotes, and we shoot the devil?”
Again, Other Dean answered before Cas finished his sentence. “Yes.”
They really left no breathing room when they bounced conversation back and forth, did they?
“Okay. If you don’t like, uh, ‘reckless’, I could use ‘insouciant’, maybe.”
“Are you coming?” Future Dean demanded. Cas took a deep breath in, like he was preparing himself for something.
“Of course,” he said at last, glancing at Normal Dean. “But why is he? I mean, he’s you five years ago. If something happens to him, you’re gone, right?”
“He’s coming,” said Other Dean, in a tone that said that it was the end of the conversation.
“Okay,” Cas muttered, looking like he wanted to fight it but didn’t have the energy, just knowing how stubborn Dean was. “Well, uh. I’ll get the grunts moving.” He stood and made to leave as Future Dean started to pack up the map.
“We’re loaded and on the road by midnight,” he ordered.
“All righty,” Cas agreed as he pushed the door open. It swung shut behind him and suddenly Regular Dean was left alone with Futuristic Dean. He wasn’t sure how much he liked that.
“Why are you taking me?” he asked, a little worried.
“Relax. You’ll be fine,” Future Dean assured him. “Zach’s looking after you, right?” He continued to put tools in his bag and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like “fucking angelic douchebags.”
“No, that’s not what I mean,” Dean told his future self. “I wanna know what’s going on.” He paused for a second, then exhaled. “With you and Cas.”
Other Dean looked up at him in surprise for a second, then said, “yeah, okay,” and walked around the table to stand face-to-face with Dean. He sighed. “We were… something. About four years ago. I realized that I-that I wasn’t the only one. That it wasn’t one-sided. And I told him. And we tried.” He paused for a long moment. “Then we fell out, and we fell out hard, and we made up for it eventually but we both agreed we couldn’t keep what we’d lost. So now it’s strictly business.”
It took Dean a solid minute to realize what it was that he wasn’t saying.
“You and Cas had a failed relationship?” he asked incredulously. His future self ducked his head.
Dean almost recoiled – not in disgust, or fear, just surprise. “Oh.” Because that one word held so much pain, and regret, and remorse, more feeling than Dean had ever thought he could hear in his own voice. He didn’t realize he had that many feelings in him.
(Okay, that wasn’t quite true. He was an emotional bastard, he just was really, really good at pretending he wasn’t.)
It was silent for a moment, and then Future Dean spoke again. “Look, Dean. You still have an angel. You still have a chance. It took me too long to realize that I was in love with Cas. It doesn’t have to be too long for you. Just go back to when you came from and say ‘yes’ to Michael, because that’s the one way that you can fix this. That’s the only way that you can protect Cas.”
He stared defiantly into Dean’s green eyes for a minute, and then he sighed. “But you won’t, ‘cause I didn’t. Because that’s just not us, is it?”
Dean felt the tension drain out of his body. He couldn’t say ‘yes’ to Michael. He couldn’t become a mindless, ruined vessel. He couldn’t let an archangel burn him out of his own skin. But he also couldn’t let this happen. This future, this reality. This… stoner husk of the man – angel – that he was in love with back in 2009.
(Because he was in love with Cas. This Dean didn’t have that wrong. Dean just hated that he was pointing it out to him.)
But then Other Dean informed him of something else, something that changed everything even further than it had already been changed.
“You want to know the real reason I’m taking you with me? You’re coming because I want you to see something. I want you to see our brother.”
“Sam?” he asked. “I thought you said he was dead.”
“Sam didn’t die in Detroit,” Other Dean admitted. “I just said he didn’t make it.” He paused. “He said ‘yes’.”
“‘Yes’?” Dean repeated incredulously. After a second, it dawned on him. “Wait – you mean-”
“That’s right. The big ‘yes’. To the devil. Lucifer’s wearing him to the prom. Your words,” he added, and Dean froze.
“So Lucifer’s wearing you to the prom?”
That was true. He had said that to Sam over the phone back in his own time.
“Why would he do that?” he whispered, his voice shaking, betraying how unnerved he was at the entire situation. His doppelganger shrugged.
“Wish I knew. But now we don’t have a choice. It’s in him, and it’s not getting out. And you need to see it – the whole damn thing, how bad it gets – so that you can do it different.”
“Hey, uh. Me. Can I talk to you for a sec?” Dean asked 2014 Dean after hearing his ridiculous plan. His clone walked over to the side with him.
“Tell me what’s going on,” he commanded.
“What?” Future Dean asked.
“I know you. You’re lying to these people, and to me.”
“Is that so.”
“Yeah,” Dean told him. “See, I know your lying expressions. I’ve seen them in the mirror. Now, there’s something you’re not telling us.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Other Dean insisted.
“Oh, really? Well, I don’t seem to be the only member of your posse with some questions, so maybe I’ll just take my doubts over to them.” Dean moved to turn back toward the group and his doppelganger grabbed his shoulder.
“Okay, woah, woah, woah, woah, woah. Wait.”
“What?” Dean asked impatiently.
“Take a look around you, man. This place should be white-hot with Crotes. So where are they?”
Dean glanced around. “They cleared a path for us,” he realized aloud. “Which means this is-”
“A trap. Exactly,” Future Dean finished for him.
“Well, then we can’t go through the front,” Dean told him.
“Oh, we’re not. They are. They’re the decoys. You and me, we’re going in through the back.”
Dean started. “You mean you’re gonna feed your friends into a meat grinder? Cas, too?” He let the look in his eyes convey the subtext of that. Because we both know Cas isn’t just your friend. “You want to use their deaths as a diversion?”
The look-alike he was staring at glance away from his withering gaze, and holy shit that was answer enough for Dean.
“Oh, man, something is broken in you,” Dean told him. “You’re making decisions I’d never make. I would never sacrifice my friends.”
“Yeah, you’re right, you wouldn’t. It’s one of the reasons we’re in this mess, actually,” Other Dean shot back.
“These people count on you. They trust you!”
“They trust me to kill the devil and save the world and that’s exactly what I’m gonna do.”
“No,” Dean muttered. “Not like this you’re not. I’m not gonna let you.”
“Oh yeah?” Future Dean demanded. Before Dean could respond, he had been punched in the face. He went down on the ground and his vision went black.
Past Dean was right, Dean thought, as he laid on the ground with his not-brother’s foot on his neck. This was such a terrible idea.
He looked into Lucifer’s eyes, staring down at him, and for just a second he thought he saw a flicker of something he knew in that familiarly unfamiliar face. He could see, for just a moment, Sam fighting to get out, to stop Satan from killing his brother. He could tell that Sam didn’t want to watch Dean die at his own hands.
He probably imagined it. He’d told himself for the last four years, since Sam said yes, that he couldn’t still be alive in there. Lucifer had taken him over and scorched him clean from the inside. It was Sam’s body, but Lucifer’s mind. Only Lucifer.
A pathetic choking sob escaped his lips.
Lucifer was going to kill him. He was. He knew it, deep down, with the same certainty that he knew Castiel would never forgive him and that he loved his dead brother more than anything.
People talk about the moment before you die, about your life flashing before your eyes. Dean didn’t see his entire life. He just saw the one moment that had defined everything to come.
Dean got there late. Too late. He should have made the decision to go yesterday, but because he didn’t, he got there five minutes too late for his brother.
He slammed the Impala’s driver door shut and took a few hurried steps toward his brother’s form, straight-backed and facing away from him. He could feel Cas behind him – close, too close – but didn’t look.
And then Sam turned. “Hello, Dean,” he said, sneering. “It’s been too long.”
It had been a while since Dean had spoken to his last remaining family, but as soon as Sam opened his mouth Dean knew what was going on.
That wasn’t Sam. Not his Sam.
“Lucifer,” he said coldly, and thanked whatever angels might still be listening to this utterly destroyed world that his voice didn’t shake or betray any sign of weakness.
“So good to be recognized,” Lucifer replied with his brother’s voice, smiling with his brother’s mouth. “I was a little worried there for a while that you’d mistake me for him.” He gestured to his body.
“No,” Dean replied. “I couldn’t. Sammy doesn’t-”
That was when he cracked. His voice broke on the word ‘doesn’t’ and he took a deep breath before he corrected himself. “Didn’t. Carry himself like that. He didn’t talk like that. And you’re wearing his face but you don’t look like him at all.”
Lucifer looked pleasantly surprised. “Well, Dean, you flatter me.”
“Go fuck yourself,” Dean spat back. And then Cas’ hands were on his shoulders, gently leading him back to the Impala, pushing him into the passenger seat, driving him back to Camp Chitaqua.
He stayed away from Cas for the rest of the day. He didn’t let Cas into his bed that night. He didn’t speak to Cas for a week.
Until the other all but dragged him into his cabin one day and demanded to know why he was torturing himself.
“He was my brother!” Dean shouted. “And he is gone! Dead! And I had to speak to his ghost, I had to look into his eyes and see nothing of the kid that I raised from birth, my baby brother who I loved and cherished and fucking abandoned when he started the Apocalypse!”
“You couldn’t have saved him, Dean. You know that. Do you really think he did that on a whim? Very little of what Sam does is not premeditated in some way, whether logical or emotional. Most likely, he was alone, Apocalypse on the horizon, without his big brother, and he saw no other escape. He probably saw the whole world was going to hell anyway and figured he could just speed it up, put some people out of their misery. And you know what? He wasn’t wrong.”
“Yeah, well fuck you too! Just because you think that you’re losing your mojo and you wish you could just die so you don’t have to deal with me anymore doesn’t make it okay for you to force all your post-angelic fake wisdom on me. Maybe we’re different people, Cas, have you considered that? All that rationale might work for you but it sure as hell don’t work for me.”
Cas cocked his head to one side. “Why are you so angry, Dean?”
Dean spluttered incredulously. “Oh, why am I so angry? I just lost the only family I have left and I’m about to lose the only other person that I love! So yeah, I’m a little fucking angry!”
“Do you really think that you’re going to lose me, Dean?” Cas asked, still somehow completely patient and composed even after Dean had yelled at him and admitted – for the first time, outright – that he loved him.
“Yes!” Dean screamed. “I. Push. Everyone. Away. I pushed Sammy away, and now he’s the devil. I pushed every girlfriend I ever had away, just by living the life I did. And now, I’m pushing you away.” He stepped forward into Cas’ space. “Because that is the only way I will ever keep you safe.”
“You can’t keep me safe, idiot!” Cas shouted, abruptly losing his cool. “I am an ex-angel. I am one of the few non-Crotes left. I stand out like a fucking beacon at midnight. You cannot protect me, so stop trying.”
“NO!” Dean bellowed. Outside, people stopped to stare at their cabin and birds took off into the sky, squawking in shock and terror.
“You’re not the man I know, Dean. You’re changing. You’re harder, colder, crueler. You’d sell your men out for any chance at all, wouldn’t you? You’d sell me out.”
Dean didn’t bother trying to deny it. He just said, “I don’t know why I ever thought this would work. We’re both horrible at this.”
He turned and pushed his way through the beads, strutting down the stairs. People were still gawking, and he gave them a heated glare. “Get back to work!”
Inside the cabin, Cas sighed, running his hands through his messy dark hair. He turned around, and suddenly saw a bottle of prescription pills on his counter. On a whim, he grabbed them and pulled them open, pouring three out into his hand and dry-swallowing them.
Outside the cabin, Dean grabbed a baseball bat and a knife and rushed over to the Impala, smashing in her windows and tearing apart her seats. When he was done, he didn’t feel any better, but he didn’t feel worse, either. In fact, he felt absolutely nothing.
Nothing except a huge fucking hole of loss.
Lucifer kept staring down at him, and he gritted his teeth. “Do it then,” he told the Devil-in-His-Brother’s-Body.
Sam’s eyes were kind as Lucifer looked at him through them. “I’m sorry it came to this, Dean,” he murmured sympathetically.
Cas, Dean thought in despair. He’d never get to say it in person, so he’d just have to hope his angel could still hear him, even as almost-human as he was. I’m so, so sorry, Cas. I’d fix it if I could. And then, as an afterthought, I love you.
And then Satan shifted his weight onto his left foor, and Dean’s world went dark.
Cas heard his name in Dean’s voice, like a whisper. He whirled around as Dean prayed to him, apologizing, confessing. I love you, Dean said.
Twice, in all of Cas’ life, that he’d heard it from Dean. Twice that he ever would, because only moments later he felt Dean’s life fading and he knew the man he loved was really gone.
Didn’t much make a difference, though, because half a second later one of the Crotes stabbed him in the throat.
As he fell, gasping for air, to the ground, his only thought was at least I will never again have to live without him.