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Fic: One Man's Burden, Another Man's Blessing 1/1

April 2nd, 2010 (08:33 pm)

Title: One Man's Burden, Another Man's Blessing

Disclaimer: Not mine.

A/N: This is a tag to 5.16. I will just preface this by saying that Dean kind of annoyed me. A lot. So if you're of the woe is Dean mentality, you may not want to read this. Just saying.  I simply think Dean has a lot to learn.

A/N 2: Beta'ed by mikiya2200  and sendintheklowns . Prompt was given by sunkisstd on the limp!Sam board. Any remaining mistakes are mine.

ETA Warning:  I suppose I should warn of character death.

Summary: Dean was right. About so much. About saying no, about holding out. About Team Free Will. But he's also been wrong.



In the end, Dean doesn't say yes.

Zachariah drags him off, sequesters him. Beats him, threatens him, tries to gross him out to death, but it's all for nothing. Because Dean's not going to say yes, if for no other reason than because it's the only line he's got left.


A big screw you to the cosmic plan, since it's the same damn plan that's messed his life up again and again and again.

Dean doesn't care if Lucifer wins. He doesn't care if Michael wins. He doesn't care if the whole world goes boom and trips up to Heaven with Pamela and Ash and the rest of the crew wiling away their time doing nothing. He doesn't care if he ends up in Hell back on the rack or in Heaven drinking beers and trying to forget that he ever had a life at all.

That's Heaven for him. It's what he clings to while Zachariah does his worst. That there's a place where he doesn't have to remember. He doesn't have to face his mother's boredom with her marriage. He doesn't have to look at a little brother who never gave a damn about him. He can go someplace, the perfect place, where it's just him forgetting how to be the sap that once was known as Dean Winchester.

Kind of a long name for his Heaven, but it works for Dean. It works as he spits blood and laughs in Zachariah's face. The funny thing is, and this part really is funny to Dean, that Zachariah's torture is kind of pointless. Now that Dean knows he can go back and forth between Heaven and Earth, he's not so sure he sees the value in threats on his life.

Zachariah says, "I'll kill you, you selfish little brain dead monkey."

And it's a hoot to say back, "Please, do. This time look for me in Pamela's heaven. I think her and I have some unfinished business. But knock first, okay?"

Zachariah, though? Son of a bitch has lost his sense of humor in all this ever since he flipped his lid and went all psycho on them. Dean knows his limited self can't see Zach in all his so-called angel glory, but the vessel's eyes are going a little red with fury and the normally neat hair is starting to stand up on end.

In short, Zachariah's taking a long walk off a short pier and Dean's got a front row seat to watching him fall right off into that never ending abyss.

And hey, that's sort of cool. Maybe he's in Heaven already.

But then it all sort of changes. Zachariah's flailing all over the place, tossing Dean on the floor and to the ceiling and sometimes into walls when he just...stops.

Dean falls to the ground and it takes a moment for him to realize that the room's stopped moving (even if his vertigo is seriously out of whack).

He blinks a couple of times and tries to look up. Because not that he minds the reprieve, but it's just pretty weird at this point in time.

And Zachariah is just standing. His head cocked to the side, mouth sort of hanging open. His eyes look almost disbelieving.

Dean tries to push himself up, even though his arms are weak. Everything sort of hurts, or really hurts, and he's trying to figure this out.

"It can't be," Zachariah says.

Dean winces, managing to get to a sitting position. "What, you found a moment of clarity?" he asks. "I told you, you need to lay off the crazy juice. I'm sure the apocalypse makes you all warm in your angelic loins, but the buzz just isn't worth it."

But Zachariah's not listening. Not to Dean anyway. He's listening to something else, something--

Then Dean hears it. Loud and banging and the entire room is shaking. The ceiling is falling and the windows are shattered and it's all Dean can do to curl and keep his brains from exploding.

Just when he thinks that's it, there's nothing more, it stops.

Dean doesn't move for a minute, just to be sure. It's been a crazy ass go of it lately. He's not sure how long he's been stuck wherever he is, but he knows it feels like years since he's seen someone human.

When nothing happens, he peeks out, tentative. Zachariah is still there. The room is in shambles around him. There's a gaping hole in the ceiling and Dean can see that it's light outside.

More than that, blue skies. Puffy blue clouds. Freakin' gorgeous.

"What the hell?" Dean asks, slowly getting to his feet.

"Huh," Zachariah says and he sounds truly surprised. He stops, shaking his head at the sky. "Wrong again, Dean-o."

Dean grimaces, holding his ribs as he keeps his feet. "What?"

Zachariah looks at him, and Dean can see the damage on his vessel clearly. Skin frayed on the tip of his nose. A raw spot on his forehead. "It's not Hell," he says. "It's not even Heaven. It's just...earth."

Dean stares. "What?"

Zachariah actually laughs. "It's earth," he says again, with force this time. "It's over."

Dean looks at him harder, more than a hint of skepticism in his voice. "What?"

Zachariah's eyes are wide, almost giddy and wild. "It's over," he repeats. "The apocalypse, the battle between Heaven and Hell, Michael and Lucifer's epic smackdown--it's over."

Somehow this just doesn't compute. "But...how?"

"I don't know," Zachariah says honestly.

"But I thought you needed me," Dean says. "Michael's true vessel."

Zachariah laughs again. "But not his only vessel," he says. "Oh, my God! All this time I wasted! All the pressure I put on you! If I had known, if I had--" The bemusement fades and something like terror crosses his face. "Oh, my God."

And then Zachariah is just gone. The house is empty.

And Dean's still standing there, hand clutching his ribs. He can still taste blood in his mouth and his arm feels almost numb. It hurts to stand, it hurts to breathe, and he doesn't even know where on earth he is...

He sighs. "Well, great," he mutters. So much for saying no into oblivion. He glares at the sky, and suddenly he's pissed off. No, he's not just pissed off, he's fully torqued. All these years he's been jerked around on some friggin' cosmic string and now it was over? "I didn't ask for this I know! You made me survive this, the least you can do is get me the hell out of here!"

And then, to Dean's great surprise, someone finally answers his prayers.

The room disappears, the house is gone and Dean is encased in white and flying, flying, flying, until he's gone.


And then there's a motel room.

Dean sits up with a gasp.

He doesn't hurt anymore--his body is healed. Even his clothes are healed.

And he knows this room. Vaguely. Green wallpaper, a coffee maker that doesn't work. A kitchenette that is nothing more than a hot plate and a mini fridge.

Canton, Ohio. Nothing special about it, but the last place Dean was swept away by Zachariah's sadistic little endgame. He and Sam had just finished up a hunt, and--


Dean looks over at the other bed.

It's empty.

Sam's not there.

"Do you want him to be there?" a voice asks.

Dean startles and turns his head. There, in the chair at the table, is his father. Not the old man who screwed him over time and time again, but the younger one. The naive and idealistic one who hadn't known anything about what went bump in the night.

Yeah, like that makes sense. Something is off, really damn off, and he's not sure what the hell happened, but he is pretty sure that the guy sitting erectly in the chair is not his father, young, old or otherwise.

Dean's eyes narrow. When it comes to things mucking up his life, there's always a safe bet that it's got something to do with angels. "Michael?"

The head nods, face blank, eyes blinking as they look at Dean.

"How the hell--?" he asks, and he doesn't have to finish the question.

"This is a form I thought you would find familiar," he says simply, cutting off the more colorful portion of Dean's question.

Considering all the crap he's been through, Dean can accept that. After all, why not? If angels can drag people out of Hell, if they can travel through time, if they can heal people with a touch of their finger, then why not take the form of Dean's father? It doesn't make any sense which is exactly why it makes total sense.

Besides, Dean has bigger questions. "So, you won, huh?" he asked sardonically, something of a smile tugging bitterly at his lips.

"I never fought," Michael tells him.

Dean inclines his head, guarded and surprised. "Come again?"

Michael does not seem fazed. "The battle between my brother and I never came to pass."

The words are clear, but the meaning just doesn't make sense. "So after all that, what? You and Lucifer just shook hands and walked away?"

Michael shook his head. "It was not my choice," he says. "It was a matter Lucifer and I had nothing to do with. It was only our place to obey."

Dean snorts. "Obey? Obey who?"

"Our father."

Dean's mouth opens in incredulity, then closes. Tendrils of anger are taking root in him. "Your father," he repeats.

Michael nods.

"So you're saying God finally showed up?" he asks pointedly.

Michael's face is impassive. "He did."

Dean runs a hand through his hair and sighs. "About damn time," he mutters. "Your old man let you idiots almost run the world into the ground."

Michael's eyes glint with restrained passion. "Be careful of how you speak of Him," he says, and his voice carries a warning his words do not quite convey. "His ways are not for us to understand."

But Dean's been around too many angels to be scared of this one now. He laughs. "That's the same damn excuse every asshole of a dad uses to keep his kids in line."

The passion abates somewhat, and Michael's expression becomes even once again. "Perhaps," Michael concedes. "But God is not every father. He is God."

Dean shakes his head. "Whatever," he says, because it sounds like a stupid excuse to him. "So now that it's all over, can you all leave me alone?"

"If that is what you wish."

"You better believe it," Dean says with a grunt.

"I have been ordered to give you whatever you want," Michael tells him.

This piques Dean's interest. The idea of reward after everything is actually almost something he might look forward to, like all of his Team Free Will nonsense and his incessant no, no, no might have benefits beyond the satisfaction of knowing he did it. "Says who?"

"God," Michael replies.

Dean frowns a little, considering. "Well it's about time he started paying me back," he snipes, because as far as Dean's concerned, this whole mess is God's fault. From allowing the Yellow Eyed Demon to screw with his family to pulling Dean out of Hell just to torment him with angel after angel. God could be omnipotent, but if he didn't use all that power to do anything that mattered, then it was back on God. "But you can tell him that all I want is to be left alone. Forever."

Michael nods, unsurprised. "This is acceptable."

It's almost too easy. Dean's been screwed over so long that he's still a little uncertain to accept this turn at face value. He still wants this, though. He really wants this. He had no idea how much he wanted this. If he can't have eternity to forget, he wants what he can get right now.

Brow furrowed, Dean wets his lips. "So, uh, if you don't mind me asking," he says. "Why did God change his mind?"

Michael's eyebrows raise. There is something different in his voice, something of reverence Dean can't quite place. "Someone made a very compelling argument."

Dean makes the best guess he can. "Cas find him?"

"Castiel gave up his search," Michael says.

Now Dean is perplexed. Not that it really matters, because Dean still did his part, still said no until the whole thing was over, but if not Dean and not Cas.... "Then, who?"

"Your brother," Michael says, not even missing a beat.

Dean wonders if he's heard him right or if in all that torture he lost his mind. "My brother?"

"Sam," Michael confirms.

That's what Dean thought Michael said, which still doesn't bode well for his so-called sanity. "Sam found God," Dean repeats, still not letting it sink in.

"Yes," Michael says. Then he looks almost awed. "I never would have thought it possible, and for a human. It was quite a feat."

Dean shakes his head, trying to put it all together. Because if Cas couldn't find the Old Man, if Dean couldn't pray his way into God's good graces, then how did Sam, the prodigal who never found home, make it happen? "But how? I mean, what did Sam say to him to make him change his mind?"

"Nothing," Michael tells him. "There are no words to change God's mind. He does not want promises or pledges. He does not seek bargains or negotiations."

"So what then?" Dean asks, edging toward the side of the bed. He's curious almost despite himself. "What else could Sam offer him? A little demon blood? A long list of sins?"

A small smile crosses Michael's face. "God only wanted to be found," he says. "He has always been here, close by. No one was looking."

"Castiel looked," Dean says back, feeling his hackles rise. "Hell, shmucks all over the world have been looking for centuries."

"And many have found God's essence and found His peace," Michael agrees. "But Sam did not seek God for his own peace. He did not seek God for his own personal satisfaction or faith. Sam sought God to save the world. To save you. God has never been able to deny one who seeks so faithfully."

Dean's mouth is hanging open. He laughs breathlessly. "So, what, my prayers weren't good enough?"

"God heard your prayers."

"Yeah, but he didn't answer them," Dean replies tersely.

Michael's face turns thoughtful. "He gave you Castiel. He returned Sam to you, many times in fact. The detoxification should have killed your brother after your encounter with Famine. God girded him and allowed you to have him longer yet." Then the angel's eyes become discerning. "Lucifer and I may have dealt with yes or no propositions, but God has always preferred questions with more open ended answers."

Dean shifts a little, uncomfortable at the notion. Dean has always wanted simple answers and quick fixes. He's liked black and white, because it's easier that way. It's easier to separate the good from the bad, the right from the wrong. As much as he hated the way Zachariah poked and pulled at him, it was always easy because there were only two answers, and he just had to keep picking the one that pissed Zachariah off.

"The answer to prayer is not always signs and wonders," Michael tells him, and it's like the angel knows what Dean's thinking, which, all things considered, he probably does. "Sometimes the greatest miracles are those that happen around us everyday. The smile of a friend. The presence of a loved one."

Part of Dean just wants to be angry. At these reductive answers, at these wishy washy solutions that tell Dean things he doesn't really want to hear. "So you're saying God never abandoned me," Dean says, trying to see if Michael was actually serious about this.

"Nor your brother or this world," Michael confirms. Then he shakes his head, almost smiling. "And I was too lost in my own conflicts to see it."

"But Sam saw it," Dean muses, in utter disbelief.

Michael continues. "Sam has had the faith of the Roman centurion. He had the persistence of the rejected widow. He clung to his hope with unwavering strength and sought God out, refusing to be ignored. God does not refuse a pure heart."

Dean waits for more. For something, anything, to connect all these dots. Because Sam's a demon blood addict who ended the world and God's the gardener who told the world to take a flying leap and Dean's the guy who started praying when he had nothing left only to be left empty and cold.

So there has to be more. He didn't just survive ten rounds with Zachariah just to be told that Sam, Hell's own Boy King, figured it out. Sam couldn't even see through Ruby, so how the hell did Sam find God, much less convince Him to give the world a second chance?

But there is no more. Michael's story is done, plain and simple, and it's more evidence that it's not demons that are jacked, but angels, all the way. "And so He stopped it," Dean says, gesturing with one hand. "Just like that."

Michael's nod is simple.

Dean stares a moment longer before he laughs outright. It's a big laugh, deep in his belly. When it settles, he shakes his head at the angel. To think that all of it, the complicated seals, the trips through time, could be stopped if they just asked. "Well, that's awesome," Dean says with thick sarcasm. "So where is he? My pure of heart little brother?"

Michael quirks an eyebrow. "Sam's audience with God was not without consequences."

The humor fades into dread in the pit of Dean's stomach. "What are you talking about? You just said that Sam's heart was pure, that God listened to him."

"Yes, of course," Michael says. "But you forget that we are talking about God."

"Yeah, the guy who made the universe, I think I get it," Dean says. "So why hasn't he plopped Sam back down?"

"Your brother has seen God," Michael says purposeful. He leans forward, keeping his eyes on Dean. "At first sight, your brother was struck blind. He was dead within seconds."

Dean blinks. He's been through so much, he's lost so much, that this one doesn't compute. He thinks maybe it should hurt, but he's lost Sam so many times and in so many ways, and he's just not sure he has it in him.

And after everything, why should he have to? Dean's all about the easy outs now. He's got nothing left to prove to these jackasses. "So bring him back," Dean blurts.

Michael's answer is just as plaintive. "It is not that simple."

"Uh, yes," Dean says as a matter of fact. "You guys have done it, what? Hundreds of times for us already?"

"Yes, when your bodies were killed and your souls moved on we have allowed you to be brought back," he says.

"So, I'm not really seeing the problem," Dean says, and he's leaning forward now, staring Michael down with any vigor he has left.

Michael's face is patient. "Sam's very soul was touched by God. There is no way his soul could fit back into his body, even if it still did exist," he explains. Then he pauses, his face going earnest. "I am sorry. Your brother is gone. If it is any consolation, he is in a better place."

Dean's told that line, he's wanted to believe it. But he never has. Never has.

And it just figures that right when Dean is ready to move on, Sam's not there to join him.

Sam's not there, and Sam's not coming back, and Dean said no and Sam said no, and Sam found God and Sam's in a better place.

The world isn't ending and they're all in a better place except that Sam's not here in this crappy motel room. Sam's dead.

Looks like his brother found a way to bail on him after all. Whatever happened to doing it together? Brothers until the end? Dean's fought this fight, he's said no, and now he's alone, so alone, more alone than he has ever been.

It's almost too much. He's been through too much. From Hell to Earth to Heaven and back again. He's been tortured and turned and tortured again. He's learned that demons are no worse than angels and that God is a gardener who just wants someone to look for him and that the answer was never yes or no at all.

And suddenly, it hurts. It hurts to do all this and have no reward that matters. It hurts to say no and have no solace of forgetting for eternity. It hurts that Sam has that escape and Dean doesn't.

Michael stands, walking closer to him. "Sam did not just ask for the world," he says. "He asked for you."

Dean looks up at him. "How do you know?"

Michael's smile is genuine, more true than Dean thought was possible for his kind. "He wanted me to give you something," he says. "He believes it might...restore your faith."

In the long list of things that don't make any sense, that one is just another drop in the bucket.

Then Michael reaches in his pocket, pulling something out. A band of leather, twined in Michael's fingers

Dean's breath catches in his throat when the amulet drops down, hanging in front of Dean at eye level.

"He said it helped him in the end," Michael says.

Dean recognizes it, remembers when he first got it. Remembers giving it to Cas, remembers getting it back. He remembers dropping it in the garbage like a worthless piece of trash. "It gets hot in the presence of God," Dean remembers absently, watching as it sways.

"Sam did not need the amulet to find God," Michael replies.

Dean turns confused eyes up to the archangel. "Then what good was it?"

"The same good it was to you for 18 years," Michael says, and his gaze is locked on Dean's. "A reminder of the bond you shared. It was that faith that never wavered for Sam, even when the rest of the journey seemed too hard, too pointless, too empty."

Dean can barely breathe. Michael reaches down and opens Dean's hand. He presses the amulet into it, closing Dean's fingers securely around it. It's foreign and familiar, burning in his hand, and for the first time in months Dean realizes that the cold emptiness in his chest isn't just his own tragedies. It's Sam. It's the loss of Sam. Even when his brother's been standing next to him, Dean hasn't seen him at all.

He's seen the demon blood. He's seen the betrayal. He's seen Sam with blood around his mouth, choking him. He's seen Sam's memories where the best times were the times when he was leaving Dean behind. He's seen Sam fail, he's seen Sam be too little, too late.

But he hasn't seen this. He hasn't seen God answering prayers through Sam. He hasn't seen Sam making the choice to be there, day after day. He hasn't seen Sam's strength as he persists and perseveres.

There are two sides to every story. There is Sam eating Thanksgiving with a friend--because Dean had been off on a hunt with John and they couldn't make it back in time. There is Sam running away to Flagstaff--because they'd moved five times in six weeks and John had told Sam he probably should just drop out now, like Dean, because there was no point in school. There is Sam going to Stanford--because he'd been kicked out for having a dream.

There's Sam, drinking demon blood--because he couldn't bring Dean back.

There's Sam, ending the world--because he thought he was saving it.

There's Sam, never coming back--because he really did save the world this time.

There's Sam, finding God and losing his life--because when Dean couldn't believe, one of them had to.

"Do not forget, Dean," Michael tells him.

And just like that, Michael is gone with a faint brush of wings, leaving Dean alone again in the motel room. Back where he began, in the driver's seat of his own life. There are no expectations now, no master plans. He's free.

He was right. About so much. About saying no, about holding out. About Team Free Will.

He's a hero for this, he is. He held out, and there should be pride in this.

But he's also been wrong. Because he let go of his faith, he let go of his amulet. He let go of Sam. The three things that saved them all were the three things Dean decided he could do without.

And yet, he has it back. He has his life, he has his freedom. He has a world of opportunities, all open to him, no pressures, no constraints. No millstones around his neck. Not a demanding father, not a needy brother. Not cleaning up everyone else's mess.

It's a victory. It's a victory.

Dean looks down at his hand, opening it again. The amulet is just like it always has been. He'd always worn it as a sign of Sam's love for him. He'd given it up when he decided that Sam's love wasn't what he'd made it out to be.

Slipping it over his neck, he decides that he'll wear it knowing that Sam's love for him was always more. Because Sam did want out. Sam craved a different life, a different sense of self. And yet, he still fought by Dean's side. Not for what he got out of it, but because it was right. Because Sam believed in the fact that they were brothers, and believed that still mattered even when Dean didn't.

He doesn't know how long he sits there, in this new and restored world. He doesn't know how long he feels the amulet's weight around his neck, not a burden, but a blessing. He doesn't know how long it is before he finally moves again, but it doesn't matter.

Because he has a lifetime, now. A lifetime of rights and wrongs. A lifetime to think, to regret, to live.

Because of Sam. He closes his eyes, wrapping his fingers around the amulet once again, and thinks it like a prayer. For Sam.



Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 5th, 2010 02:07 am (UTC)

I am kind of amused that I almost didn't post this fic because I was sure no one would like it and I've gotten more reviews on this than most other fics lately.

I don't know what they're really doing with Dean. He was so immature and short sighted this ep that it was so frustrating. He doesn't seem capable of acknowledging that people have feelings outside of him and more than that, that it's OKAY.

I feel like he's wallowing in his losses without realizing that he hasn't lost everything he thinks he has. But if he doesn't get his crap together soon, he will lose it all.

Anyway, YAY YOU FOR JUMPING SHIP. I wish I had the fortitude. This show has so few redeeming qualities so I don't know why it's always in my head.


Posted by: Dani (pinkphoenix1985)
Posted at: April 5th, 2010 08:39 am (UTC)

What? that's amazing!

Everything YES! I have a good friend who's a DG and I wrote her a long comment explaining why I was upset with the writers etc. Basically, she wrote that we'd have to agree to disagree on everything. :/// Okay, fair is fair but her opinion is of the majority! And I just feel so alone :(((

Faye-- I really hope that they do go through what they're doing with Dean because then his issues will finally be resolved!

Well, I think that I've decided to back away from the show and catch episodes when I feel like it or not. I'm still at the forum (thank g-d for the forum!!!!) and I'll read all the comments about 5x17 and if there is some limp!Sam, etc maybe I'll watch. Either way is good for me.

I still feel like I need the bloody payoff but the way they are going with it is blah blah I mean wasn't S5 supposed to be the season getting the boys back together? hmm? maybe by S7 they will be together ;)

I'm still writing the VS though so no worries about that okay?

Edited at 2010-04-05 08:40 am (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 13th, 2010 03:11 am (UTC)
find me

Dean's issues being resolved? But then what would they do for S6?!?! We MUST HAVE MORE DEAN ANGST FOREVER!!!


Sorry :)

It's just hard because I don't really hate Dean. Or like, I don't hate the Dean that I thought existed in S1. Until, you know, the writers made him this whiny self absorbed idiot.

I'm not counting on payoff, but I'm still here despite it all. These boys are in my soul, and even if I want to, I can't get away from it.

VS = another thing I don't want to think about. But how is your ep going?

Posted by: Dani (pinkphoenix1985)
Posted at: April 23rd, 2010 11:31 am (UTC)

I totally agree! Btw I know that you're not really into reading fics anymore but Mizpah is currently an AU from 5x16 which is WOW! I WISH that she would be able to write for the show...


Faye--I agree that is why I haven't been able to just stop watching but I'm so less invested than I was--the boys can die and I'll go aww that's a shame what's next you know?

VS- it's going okay--Annj and I are busy discussing outline now (she's in the middle of writing 14 I think) and We're doing a great plotline which I hope we do justice to. I'm sorry that I've been MIA on the VS site--real life has been insane to say the least. how is your hubby and little man doing?

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