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The World Burns, Safe and Sound

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Carver’s not EP anymore.  No one technically answers to him, so no one should technically care what he has to say, but when Misha practically runs off set saying “ ’Sup, Jeremy?” into his phone, production slows.  Lots of eyes are suddenly very focused on whatever’s directly in front of them-cameras, sandwiches, lights.


Or, in Jared’s case, up into Jensen’s face.


They’re blocking the scene, the crew shouting last minute checks and adjustments across set.  Sam’s slumped against a wall.  Dean’s kneeling next to him doing his half-hover, half-hug, stroke-Sam’s-face check-up thing.  Cas wasn’t Cas yet, he was still Misha, waiting for his cue to step around the wall and into frame. 


That’s the only reason Jared can think Mish had his ringer on.  Or his phone in his pocket.


“Fuckin’ YouTube,” Jensen growls.  He sounds halfway to Dean, but the way he uses Jared’s shoulder to pull them both to standing is all Ackles.  “Stupid fuckin’ con.”


“Friday panel?”


“Sunday.  He wasn’t happy.”


“He wasn’t there!”


“Doesn’t matter.”


Jensen’s out the stage door and headed to Misha’s trailer, Jared two steps behind, but Misha never made it there.  He’s ten feet in front of them, looking calmly at Phil, phone tight in his hand.  Phil’s talking, but he stops when he sees Jared and Jensen at the door.


Misha turns, shrugs, tries to smile but just looks tired.  Phil starts toward the stage door, and they all go inside.  Jared knows they should talk about it, but no one’s holding eye contact long enough to say a word.


They block, reset.  Phil calls action.  When Cas comes in and kneels on the other side of Sam to heal him, Jared sneaks a hand onto Misha’s thigh.


Misha doesn’t break.




Under pain of death, Jensen would swear he tried to keep it under control.  Really.  The con had been great, and the whole gang finished loud and happy Saturday night.


But they had to do a Sunday panel.


“You didn’t have to do it drunk,” Dani reminds him. 


“Nothing even happened.  I don’t know why everyone’s freaking out!”


You’re freaking out.  Which you always do at these things.  You’re cool at home, fine at work, then come con time and you bitch at fans and Misha steps in so you don’t…”


“Don’t what?”


He hears her glare through the phone.  “Look like a no-homo asshole.” 


She keeps talking, says all the insightful stuff he loves her for, but he’s not really listening.


Jensen tries not to care.  In the beginning, the thing with Jared was off-color and kinda funny, nothing more serious than one or two nights with his hand and a mental picture of Jared that always shrunk and grew girl parts by the time he all the way hard.  And when Jensen met Dani, all bets were off.  She was it, better in real life than his head could ever imagine.


But then.  Then there’s an Angel of the Lord in front of him, half an inch away from him, throwing him up against a fake alley wall and breathing heavy in his face and oh fuck, Dean’s scared and ragged and Cas can maybe hold their whole world in his hands.  Misha works his way in too, going from awkward shy new kid to Jensen’s favorite distraction, and he’ll have Jared and Jensen practically pissing from laughter six seconds before his voice drops gravel-low.


Somewhere deep inside, Cas does it for Dean.  Jensen’s rattled awake once during a thunderstorm, fucks Dani hard in the dark and comes at the memory of Cas telling him he should show him some respect. 


They got married the year Dean was with Lisa, when Sam was half-gone and Cas went crazy with Purgatory souls.  Jensen couldn’t get his head around leaving Lisa, not when Dani was at home in real life, didn’t know how to make Dean stick the landing when all Jensen wanted was his wife.


But the Sam tries to kill Bobby, and Dean can’t give up- Sammy isn’t whole, and he sure as hell ain’t going back in the cage, and that means Dean needs to figure out what to do with that and he can’t afford the space Lisa would take up in his heart.


Jensen remembers reading the script when Cas admits his deal, feels in his bones the betrayal and the vicious, hateful “I never should have left her” that comes along with it.  He fights with Dani that night about kids, because he knows what he wants but Dean’s heart is breaking again and again while she’s sitting there crying “When are you gonna be ready then, Jen?”


They get… mixed up, somehow Jensen’s fear of having family and Dean losing all the family he’s ever had.


He and Dani text “I’m sorry’s” the day Dean traps Cas in a circle of Holy Fire, and the light dances on his beautiful face.  He’s radiating power and ready to raze Dean’s whole word to the ground, and Jensen has had e-fucking-nough.


He talks to Sera and Kripke and anyone who would listen, and they make him chase Cas through Purgatory anyway.


Most of the time, Jensen is only Jensen.  He sees his daughter for the first time and hates the fact it took so long to meet her.  Jared can practically read his mind, and Misha makes him laugh harder than anyone in the universe.  He’s stupid in love with Dani, still, and she gets him going at almost forty the same way she did for him at 28. 


But Sunday- or Saturday or 2009 or every fucking con they’ve ever done- in a fancy hotel, thousands of miles away from his fake life and his real one, drunk and hung over and watching Misha’s hands curl around the microphone, the wires get crossed again.


“They’re family,” Jensen snaps, and it’s harsh enough the girl at the mic starts shaking.  “Dean thinks of Cas as his brother. That’s all.”


He knows the cell cameras are zooming, and the queue behind the girl starts looking to make sure she’s ok.


Misha’s hand is on his back, too close, too close.  “For the record, I think brotherly love is the best kind.”


The crowd laughs, cheers, and Jensen turns his face toward Misha and focuses on the smile only he can see is fake.


Fuck you, Dean spits at Jensen.  What the fuck do you know.




This last adventure should be over- they’re on their way home- but something is unfinished, some window left open that’s letting in a cool breeze of doubt. 


Everyone forgets Sam is brilliant.  Sam sometimes forgets Sam is brilliant.  Bunking (ha!) with Dean for all these years got him in the habit of being little brother and not much else.


Sam’s always had a habit. 








Sam thinks about blood, sometimes.  He doesn’t count days in his head anymore, no longer needs the self-congratulation of getting through another day with nothing but human emotions. 


His first Hell helped a lot with that.


The other Hells have come in discrete packages, opened and unpacked and then closed up again with blood and strife and time. 








Sam replays the night in his mind.


Mary is at rest, cosmic order restored when Cas took her soul to Heaven for good.  Sam cried, will probably cry and mourn again, but this chapter is written.  Mary came for Dean, to sew up the wound on his heart that’s been bleeding since Sammy was six months old.


Sam got three weeks with his mom.  Three weeks of her voice, her laugh, her brain that puts his to shame and would have gotten him through Stamford in three years, if… if.


Dean got two months.  Amara gave Mary to Dean, because Dean needed someone to take care of him.  Someone that’s not Sam, because Sam?  Sam can take care of himself.


Mary signed her fate, and John’s, and Sam’s.  Dean was the only one with a choice, and the only one who had to choose at four years old.  No wonder his soul is a storm.


Dean hugged her first, walked quickly away, eyes closed tight to keep her face in his memory.  Sam went next, dried Mary’s tears for Dean so she could look at him.


“I’ll take care of him.  I promise.”


She laughed sadly.  “Sammy.  My baby.”


They hugged for a long time, so she didn’t have to say no or thank you or I’m sorry or I love you. 


What she did say was, “Make sure he finds his way home.”


Cas held Mary’s hand to guide her through the portal. 


Cas looked back at Dean, always at Dean.


“If you need me…”


He goes through.


Sam smiles and closes the window in his mind.  Not yet, Cas.  But soon.


Dean shifts in the driver’s seat, knuckles white on the wheel.  Sam knows, right now, the only thing holding him together is 2000 pounds of steel and hard-won faith that every belt and gear is moving in time.  Organized, functional in ways Dean doesn’t- can’t- believe he is.  Sam’s promise was true- he’ll take care of Dean, when it’s time.


But Dean will figure it out.  Probably.  There’s still half a country to drive before they’re home.


Sam likes to think this is how Dean prays.




“What were you thinking?”  Jensen asks, sliding out of character while the crew resets the cameras and calls for Misha.  “During the scene.  Just now.”


“Just replaying the story in my mind.”  Sam’s mind.


Jensen gets it.  “Sammy come up with any deep revelations?”


Jared can’t help but grin.  “Sam came up with the Mariana fucking Trench.


“Tell me.”


Here, Jared falters.  The week has been weird, with Misha on eggshells that everyone and no one is even responsible for.  Jensen’s tired.  Dean is almost broken.  Sam knows what to do, but Jared doesn’t want to get fired four months away from the series finale. 


They’re better than they’ve ever been.  Ever, Swan Song and all.  And… someone, somewhere said it.  It’s not impossible, but it’s risky.


“Jay.”  Jensen glares.  “Spit it out.”


“Kripke’s twisting Mish’s balls because he’s pissed we might get a nod right when he leaves, but we might, Jen, we’re that good, you and Misha are fucking Emmy good and I don’t fucking care if it’s fan service, I say we do it.”


Jared knows it’s basically one long word, but he’s nervous and excited and if he’s wrong he might have just fucked with Jensen’s friendship on top of getting fired.


So he keeps going.


“It’s been building for years and I know you’re not as weird about it as you seem, and there’s people who will do it right, Jen, people other than Kripke and Sera and Dabb matter and even if we don’t get a nod we get noticed, right?”


Jensen is still, so still.  Bad news from home still.  Someone tried to kill Sammy still. 


He’s just looking.


Jared smiles.


He can’t help it.


He’s a fan.


Jensen watches him for a second before matching the smile with his own.  “I’m in.”


“In what?  In trouble?”


They both startle.  Misha’s at the car, sliding in the back, loose and easy the way Cas is not.  Tired the way Cas is, though. 


“When we break, we’re calling Robbie-“


“And Dick-“


“And Felicia-”


“Craig- fuck it, group text.”


“Wh-why?”  Misha’s eyes are brighter than they’ve been in days, open almost wide enough to smooth the lines around them, grinning and suspicious and hopeful and Jared sends a silent Fuck you, Kripke to the universe.


Markers come out and Phil starts shooting.  Sam turns back to face the highway, Cas sliding back to the shadows to watch the night go by.


Dean flips on the radio, and Baby starts to sing.




Robbie Thompson emails the scene to Jared eight minutes after he hangs up the phone.


He wrote it while Rob was singing.




Richard Speight, Jr. actually is a god.  He tells people all the time, but no one believes him.


He’s not directing the last episode, and that’s ok with him.  He’ll be there next week anyway, and for the wrap party, and for as long as life will let him keep running into these weirdos, he guesses.


The shoot goes well.  Richard’s been around for a few series wraps, knows the frantic energy that builds when people are simultaneously ready to move on and desperate to stay in one moment, forever.


The boys are great.  He keeps the cameras rolling all day, getting photographic evidence of the talent in the room; how they light up every time someone walks on set, how it literally takes until he says “Action!” for their faces to school into monster-hunting seriousness.


He wraps the day, the crew applauds, and the conversation wilts after a minute while everyone watches to see who will be the first to leave.


An hour passes between 9:21 and 9:22.


Craig sighs from the corner, a little bit of Metatron infecting the room.  “You boys need to get fluffed or something?”


The laugh in the room is deafening, Comic-Con proportions as the crew runs to the cameras and Osric starts pulling out liquor from a duffel bag. 


Jensen makes his way to Richard, slugging back whatever was passed to him.


“They gotta know, right?”


“Do you really fucking care?”


Danneel’s a few feet away, giggling with Gen and Jared and waiting for Felicia to finish cutting the limes.


“I might.”


Richard wasn’t necessarily prepared for this, but if he’s good at one thing it’s thinking on his feet.  He knows Jensen, knows there’s some shit he’s not worked through that makes this hard, knows that he’s thinking of Dean and his baggage and that Jensen is not the type to jump in the car and drive north on a whim. 


“Here’s how I see it.  Jensen’s good at running the show, he’s comfortable slinging his weight around and he’s got the track record to prove he’s right.  Dean?   Fucks up everything he touches-”




“- so it makes sense that Dean wouldn’t get his head out of his ass until now.  And I think that if you were really into him, you’d…. already be… fucking.”


Jensen stares.


“For, like.  Years, now, man.”


Not his most eloquent.  But the death grip on the red plastic cup has loosened, and Jensen’s got a smile working under his surprised eyes.


“Wha- really- Years?”


“Oh my god, you would have gotten drunk and blown him the first night on set.”


“Who says I didn’t?”


Richard laughs, surprised, and waves down the tequila bottle attached to Osric’s hand.


“Take your shots and clear my set, motherfuckers!  We got a loooooove scene to film!”




It plays like this.


There’s monsters to hunt. 


Always monsters to hunt. 


Always Sam to check in on. 


Always Baby to tune.


But not today.


Today he’s dicking around on the computer, singing whatever song pops into his head, listening to Sam ramble around the bunker, every now and then glancing at the picture of Mary they now keep in a frame in the War Room.


Heaven and Hell restored.  Chuck and Crowley back on the thrones, Amara and Lucifer drifting in the universe, spreading darkness to other planets before the light finds them and breaks the dawn.


The world turns, and all will be as it should be.


If he believed in that sort of thing, Dean would say he was content.


There’s no ruffle of feathers, not even displaced air, but Dean knows Cas is behind him the same way he knows his own name.




Dean turns, smiles, keeps Cas’ eyes.


“Welcome home.”


Cas stares, unblinking, younger looking than the last time they met, Grace that’s all his own finally in full proportion.


“You called for me.”


“Uh, no.”  Dean didn’t.  “But I’m happy you’re here.”


He is.


Cas steps closer, searching, stops when they’re almost chest to chest.


Dean doesn’t back away.


“I haven’t seen you at full strength in years, man.  You look good.”


He does.


“You… called for me.”


Dean didn’t….


….And here it comes.  The chasm.  The rift in the world where Dean Winchester is always on the precipice, one wrong move and he falls, Sam falls, Cas falls, the world falls…


….Right when he was happy, god damn it….


Cas’ hand is on his chest.


“Dean.  There’s no storm for you to weather, today.”


He’s freaked now.  “So why are you here?”


“You called for me.”




He didn’t.  But everything is as it’s supposed to be, God and monsters and demons and Winchesters….


….And Cas is supposed to be home.


It doesn’t electrify his skin, and choirs of Angel’s don’t shout good tidings.  The lights stay on, and Dean feels chapped lips press against his own, just once.


Sam sniggers from the other side of the wall. 


Stupid, chick-flick loving Sam.


Dean takes a breath, then two, then he’s kissing Cas again for real, like the pizza boy.


The lights stay on. 


Sam throws his hands up and laughs out loud.


Outside, safe and sound, the world burns.






The cast and crew cheer for a full ten minutes. 


Extra security is added at conventions.


Jensen, Jared and Misha get the cover of EW.


Misha gets interviewed for the Hollywood Reporter for his Emmy nomination.


The show’s on the short list for Outstanding Drama Series, but doesn’t get the nod.  It does get six technical awards, though.


The Internet swings from relief to vitriol, not going far enough, going too far, just the perfect amount of payoff, a decade of queerbaiting for one lousy kiss?


Jensen admits at JIBCon 12 he acted like an ass when it came to “the bi thing.”


Kripke’s new show gets cancelled.


We take it.