Supernatural: The End, Part 9
9 – Pushing The River
Dean regained consciousness running.
Which would seem impossible, but he had no memory of anything before he suddenly found himself running through a forest, jumping over fallen logs and swerving to avoid trees. He had the sense something big and bad was after him, and had been after him for a very long time. His lungs were burning, and his knee was starting to ache.
He had a handgun in his right hand, and when he turned to look back at what exactly was following him, he saw nothing but darkness. Darkness that was corrosive, eating the woods at it progressed, flowing like water and washing away everything in its path. He emptied the gun into it, but it did nothing. Reality was simply being erased, and why did he think shooting at it would do anything? But he had to do something, right?
He dropped the empty gun back in his pocket, and through a break in the trees ahead, he saw a parking lot and a bar. There was no reason to think that the bar was going to survive this wave of nothing, but he was tired, and he could think of worse places to die.
Dean ran into the bar, ahead of the darkness, and slammed the door, leaning against it and trying to catch his breath. The bar shook, like Godzilla just stomped up to the door, but otherwise nothing happened. He was either erased from existence or he wasn’t. Dean was determined not to worry about it until he absolutely had to.
As soon as he was sure he could breathe without wheezing, he straightened up and turned around, ready to give some glib, bullshit line to the bar patrons. But the line died in his throat. The bar was the scene of a massacre.
The blood was almost an inch thick on the floor. There were bodies splayed on tables, on the bar, pieces on the floor, one quartered on the pool table in the back. The first body he came to was Bobby’s, his neck cut so deeply his head was attached to his body by his naked spine alone. There was a beer glass full of blood on the table.
This never happened. Why … what was this?
Looking around the bar, he realized he recognized every single person in here. Ellen, Jo, Tessa, Pamela, Rufus, Ash, Lisa, Ben, Kevin, Charlie, Castiel … but he froze as soon as he saw who had been quartered on the pool table.
Whoever had done it had been very thorough. They mostly severed his arms at the shoulders and his legs at the hips, stretching them out to expose the bones and the muscles. They sliced him around the midsection until his intestines bulged out, and finished it up with ramming an ice pick through his left eye. The pool table was black with blood, and it was dribbling over the edge. Dean got this sick feeling Sam had lived a long time while he was being sliced up.
And that’s when someone slammed a knife right between Dean’s shoulder blades.
The pain was immediate and intense, sending an electric shock down his spine, but he reflexively threw back his elbow and caught the fucker, sending him stumbling back. The knife was still in his back, but he viewed that as a minor positive, because he couldn’t stab him with it again.
Dean spun, pulling his own knife from a sheath on his belt, and he had just lunged forward to gut the bastard when he realized he was looking at himself.
Fake Dean smiled, aiming a pistol at real Dean’s face. Blood was freckled on his cheeks and forehead, and his shirt was black with it, but none of the blood on him was his. “You know what they say about a guy who brings a knife to a gun fight.”
“You think you’re the first asshole who’s worn my face?” Dean spat. “I’m not impressed.”
“It’s not your face, it’s my face,” Fake Dean replied. “You’re a real piece of work, you know that?”
Dean made a “yap yap yap” gesture with his free hand, and tried to ignore the creeping numbness that was starting to overtake his legs. Blood crawled down his back, and if he was careful about breathing, he didn’t feel the knife. “Sing another song, bud, I’ve heard that one too.”
Fake Dean laughed. “Wow, I am such a big bag of dicks. No wonder I’ve been killed, like, what? Half a dozen times now? You know you’re dying now, right?”
“Why don’t you come closer and make sure?” He wasn’t letting go of his knife. Yeah, dickface had a gun, but all Dean needed was to draw his attention away for a split second. At this distance, he could easily throw the blade and split his skull like a fucking walnut.
Fake Dean gave him a really annoying half-smile. Someone else’s blood dripped off his chin. “You know why you’re perfect for the Horseman gig, right? ‘Cause you will know Dean Winchester by the trail of his dead. You’re a plague on humanity.”
Dean almost shrugged, but at the last second he felt muscles and skin pull against the knife, and it took everything he had not to react to the pain and give this fucker any satisfaction at all. He could feel a stream of blood running down his leg, puddling at his feet. “Maybe you should have thought about that before you killed these people.”
Fake Dean grinned, and showed off the blood on his teeth. “I didn’t kill anybody. You did.”
“Really? How -“ Suddenly Dean had a very clear memory of driving the knife into Bobby’s throat, digging in until he cut through cartilage and bone, the blood hot and sticky as it gushed over his hand. And he remembered blindsiding Sam with a right hook, and as soon as he was laid out on the pool table, driving the ice pick into his eye until it punched through to the surface below, pinning him there. He was very precise about location, because he didn’t want Sam to die right away. He wanted him to feel what it was like to be dismembered.
“No!” Dean yelled, mentally trying to shove the thoughts away. “That didn’t happen! You did this!”
Fake Dean just kept grinning. “And I’m you. We’re the snake biting its own tail. Do you really think you should be weaponized? You? America’s greatest unknown serial killer?”
Dean opened his mouth to protest, and then he remembered Lisa screaming as he disemboweled Ben right in front of her. “That – that didn’t happen,” Dean said, even as he realized he wasn’t sure anymore. Maybe it did. He could still hear the noise of his guts hitting the floor.
“You came back from Hell so broken,” Fake Dean continued. “You never did recover. You got that now, right? That’s why you felt so alive and at peace when the demonic side of the Mark of Cain took over. You haven’t been Human for so long. If you became Death, you’d be a million times worse. You’d kill and kill, and there’d be nothing to stop you. You’d make the Earth a slaughterhouse.”
“No,” Dean protested, but it came out as a whisper as he sank to the floor, no longer able to feel his legs. He remembered crushing Charlie’s skull with the butt of his pistol. A bit of her brains was still on it. Blood lapped warmly against him, and he felt this hollow pit open up deep inside his chest.
It was true. All of it. He dropped the knife, his hands were too slick with blood, and wasn’t sure if he felt like crying or screaming. “I didn’t – I was trying to make it right.”
Fake Dean crouched down, so he was at his level. His eyes all but glowed with a gleeful malevolence. “You can’t make it right. You could live for a million years, and you wouldn’t make a single dent in it. You understand that now, yeah?”
He looked at Fake Dean, and realized he was in fact looking at a mirror. It was him; it had always been him. “I –“ he wanted to apologize, but he didn’t know to who, or how such weak words could convey how truly repentant he was. He wanted to do good, he really did. He didn’t know where he’d gone so wrong. But he had, and now he could climb a tower of corpses that he’d created all the way to the sun.
Dean realized there was a gun in his hand. It was different, heavier, loaded. He planted it under his chin, aimed up and slightly back, so he was sure to take the top of his skull off. He’d researched this; he knew the best way to blow his own head off. Dean had considered it more than a few times in his life. He should have done it sooner. How many people would still be alive if he just ate a bullet three years ago?
“No!” Cas suddenly ripped the gun out of his hand, crouching in front of him just like Fake Dean did, before he became a mirror. “You’re being influenced, Dean. Someone’s trying to sabotage the Ascension.”
Dean remembered beating Castiel into a pulpy mess, before driving an angel blade right into the center of his forehead. He was such a sap he never even fought back. “I can’t do this,” he said. “I can’t.”
Cas grabbed him by the shoulders, and Dean had the disconcerting sensation of seeing him split in two. Half of Cas was normal; the other has was bruised and bloodied. “What are you seeing right now?”
“My crimes.” He looked around the blood soaked floor for another weapon. He didn’t want Cas to save him. He wanted to die before he was given the ability to kill everyone.
“This is an empty room.”
He looked around, and saw all the corpses, all the blood still dripping off the tables. It smelled like a slaughterhouse. “You’re dead, and I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to kill you.”
“Listen to me, Dean. I’m not dead. You haven’t killed me. Someone is messing with your mind.”
Dean wondered idly if, hallucination or not, he could get this Cas to kill him. “If I become a Horseman, everyone will pay. I tortured in Hell, and I liked it. I liked being demon possessed. I liked the killing rage of the Mark. I will slaughter with abandon. I cannot be trusted.”
He shook his head. He was so tired of being alive. What was the point? If he lived, it would just be to create even more atrocities. “You want to know a secret, Cas? I love killing. Nothing feels better to me than ganking some demon. I can’t pour enough booze in me to fill that hole. Death is home to me.”
“That’s not true.”
“I’m a monster. I just get more monstrous every passing year. You can’t allow me to do this. You have to kill me.”
“Please remember this is for your own good,” Cas said, and then slapped him across the face.
While Dean felt the sting of it, he just shook his head. “Nobody can be slapped to death, Cas. Not even a Stooge.”
Cas scowled, although the bloody side of his face didn’t move. “I’m sorry about this.” He then pulled out his angel blade, and sliced him across the cheek.
The pain was sharp and bit deep. Reflexively, Dean grabbed Cas’s wrist, and a couple of competing urges flashed through his mind. To stab himself in the throat, just puncture his own carotid and be done with all of this, or to jam it in one of Cas’s eyes.
Cas pulled his arm free before he could do either, and said, “Look around you. What do you see?”
Dean didn’t want to obey, but he did as he asked, just to confirm it for himself. “The same thing as before. Bodies. Haven’t you noticed how deep the blood is in here?” But as he glanced back at Cas, the room … flickered. There was no other term for it. Light briefly blinked out, and so did the blood soaked barroom. For a moment, Cas didn’t have a bloody face.
Dean’s mind reeled. After that brief moment of nothing, everything looked the same as before. Sam vivisected on the pool table, Bobby slumped on the table with a glass of his own blood, Cas dead against the bar –
Cas dead against the bar?
Dean looked between the body and the Cas crouched in front of him, and tried to reconcile this. “Are you wearing his face? You’re another angel, right?”
“Dean, it’s me.” He didn’t know if he dared trust that. Cas sighed. “Do I really need to start listing all the porn titles I’ve seen you order at hotels?”
Okay, yes, this was probably Cas. Dean felt something dripping off his face, and he thought it was more blood, but his fingers pulled away clean. Oh, fantastic, he was sobbing like a fucking five year old. He wiped his face with the back of his hand, then wondered why he’d bothered. Cas had already seen it. Cas also knew some terrible things about him. At least crying made him seem human. “No, I gotcha.” Dean looked around to find it was an empty bar. There was no blood anymore. There wasn’t even a pool table. “Shit. It was so real. I could even smell it.”
“It had to be realistic to be effective.” Cas helped him stand, and Dean could no longer feel the knife in his back. Of course not, that was no more real than anything else.
“Effective? Was I supposed to kill myself?”
“I think that was the end goal.”
“You can kill yourself in Heaven?”
Cas shrugged. “Just like any place else. It seems illogical, though.”
“Yeah.” Dean still didn’t feel right. His insides were jumbled and broken, and the feeling of a knife anywhere in him might have been preferable. He didn’t know why, maybe because he felt so bereft, but he told him, “It was true, you know. All of it.”
When Cas glanced at him, he had a whole, intact face. No bloody bisection anymore. “Dean, I’m an angel. I’ve always known.”
For some reason, this shocked him. “What?”
“I know what you think is secret. I know you like killing demons. I know you think you’re broken, and you drink to feel something. I know you slept with a gun under your pillow for an entire month in 1998, not because you were preparing for trouble, but because you’d look at it every night and wonder if you could finally pull the trigger. I know you, Dean. Angels see you for who you are, not what you want people to think you are.”
Dean felt his gut roil. He really didn’t want anyone – especially Cas – to know him that well. “I don’t understand. You know I’m a piece of shit. Why are you here?”
“Because you’re not. You try and you fail and you pick yourself up and you keep going. There’s a beauty in that.”
Dean snorted and looked away, because he couldn’t look Cas in the eye right now. He wasn’t sure he could look him in the eye ever again. “Yeah, everybody wants a fucked up Horseman on emotional training wheels. That sounds like a big win for the universe.”
Cas was silent for a moment, as if not sure what to say. But maybe he was just thinking. “It took me a shockingly long time to realize that perfection isn’t the point. There’s no such thing. We all have flaws, scars on our souls, missing pieces. That isn’t the point. The point is what we do in spite of those scars. We sin, we fall, we fail, we break down … it’s okay. As long as we don’t give up.”
Dean looked back at the bar door, wondering if there was anything beyond it. “Save it for Hallmark, Shakespeare.” But Cas probably knew he was blustering, just to pretend his words hadn’t hit him in the gut.
“I’m not sure what holiday that sentiment would be appropriate for.”
Dean laughed, and it felt good. “Cas, was that an actual joke?”
Cas smiled faintly. “See, I’m getting the hang of it.”
Dean guessed that Cas must have also known how much he meant to him now. He thought of him as his other, weirder brother, although being weirder than Sam was a tall order. But Cas managed it easily. “You also thought my vessel was kind of handsome,” Cas said.
“Pardon me?” Dean replied, although … yeah, okay, he did. But there was no denying Jimmy had been a good looking guy. Good enough looking that it was probably a shame he was such a religious nut in real life. But there was no fucking way he was putting all of his cards on the table, even if Cas knew what they were.
There was a noise, sort of a hollow roar, and Dean turned in time to see the bar’s door and front wall ripped away. The void was there, a deep, endless well of nothingness. It couldn’t have a will or intention, but somehow it did. Looking into all that nothingness made Dean dizzy. He felt like he was going to fall forward into it, and he would never stop falling.
Cas yanked him back and stepped in front of him, angel blade still in his hand. “You want him, you have to go through me first.”
Dean felt like he’d been stomped through an emotional wringer, and he was done. Just done. Yes, it was terrifying, but what in his life hadn’t been terrifying? One more nightmare didn’t make a difference. “Fuck this noise,” he said, grabbing his own angel blade from inside his coat, and standing shoulder to shoulder with Cas. “You want me so bad? Let’s go.” He would probably lose this battle, but right now he didn’t care. He was going to take as much of that fucking thing with him as he could, make it bleed.
It was a void, so it was hard to say if there was any reaction at all. But it did seem to be growing larger, tearing away chunks of the bar and dissolving them like sugar in coffee.
(Nothing. Everything. Nothing. Eternal Pain.)
“Is this what it feels like to be a Winchester?” Cas asked.
Dean shrugged, as the void grew, and the pull of it became nearly irresistible. “Facing off against certain doom and knowing you’re going to get your ass kicked? Basically.”
To his surprise, Cas grinned. “It’s pretty cool.”
And then the emptiness swallowed them whole.